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Colombia’s upcoming political shift comes amid guerrilla leader’s mystery

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Colombian government claims the leader of a remaining Marxist guerrilla group is on his deathbed in Venezuela. The guerrilla group claims he was injured but he is recovering.

Both the Colombian government and the guerrilla agree there was an attack in June that injured Iván Márquez, the founder of The Second Marquetalia guerrilla.

Daniel Garcia-Peña, the Colombian government’s second high commissioner for peace in the 90s, has been following the reports closely amid a confusing trail of rumors.

“It’s not clear exactly who was behind the attack, whether it was infighting within the dissident groups … or whether it was some kind of commando group of mercenaries,” said Garcia-Peña, a U.S.-educated political analyst with The National University of Colombia.

President-elect Gustavo Petro’s ascend to power on Sunday comes amid the mystery surrounding Márquez, a dissent from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Outgoing President Iván Duque told Semana, a Colombian weekly magazine, that sources reported Márquez was dying in Venezuela and other sources said that he was hospitalized in a “vegetative state.”

“He is being protected by the (Nicolás) Maduro regime and he is in the Caracas hospital,” Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano told reporters in July.

Márquez, also known as Luciano Marín, was a negotiator during the 2016 peace agreement in Havana, Cuba. He withdrew from the process in 2019, and the U.S. offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his arrest in 2020.

Petro has plans to continue the decades-long struggle for peace in Colombia. Voters elected the economist, with graduate studies in Belgium and Spain, in June. The retired M-19 guerrilla fighter is a former mayor of Bogotá and senator.

“The new government has reopened the possibility of … a peace process that includes differentiating the diverse expressions of violence that we have in Colombia today,” Garcia-Peña said.

Manuel Bolívar, a former FARC guerrilla fighter who runs a restaurant, said he is tired of the war and the lack of security in Colombia. Earlier this year, he said he found a bomb in the restroom of his restaurant and managed to prevent a tragedy.

“We resolutely hope that the security conditions that are coming for our country, even though we know these won’t be perfect, will radically change the security situation,” Bolívar said in Spanish.

Duque refused to recognize Maduro’s re-election and suspended diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019. Petro is determined to renew relations with Venezuela and reopen embassies and consulates.

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