So-called “dissident” FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced in early May that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers on April 23 during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. On May 31, Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Armed Forces announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But the independent Caracas Chronicles reports that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombian guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana.
The Martin Villa 10th Front is reported to have some 1,500 men under arms, and to be led by Gentil Duarte, a veteran FARC commander who was expelled in 2016 for refusing to demobilize. Before taking refuge in Venezuela he was leading renegade forces in Colombia’s Amazonian department of Guaviare.
On May 17, a key dissident FARC leader was reportedly killed by Colombian troops who made an illegal incursion into Venezuela. Seuxis Hernandez Solarte AKA Jesús Santrich had actually been a chief negotiator in the FARC’s peace talks with the Colombian government. But he disavowed the 2016 peace deal less than two years after its signing when he was indicted in the US for cocaine trafficking. News of his death was released by Santrich’s new rebel group, the Second Marquetalia Movement. (AP, EFE)
Photo of captive soldiers being released via FANB