The Colombian Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) terrorist and accused drug trafficker Jesús Santrich after he disappeared shortly before he was due to face charges.
Jesús Santrich, 52, is accused of smuggling cocaine into the United States as recently as 2017. Having served for 30 years as a senior commander for FARC, a Marxist terrorist group, Santrich became a key player in negotiations for a peace deal with the Colombian government.
Under the 2016 peace agreement, which was bulldozed through by former President Juan Manuel Santos despite its rejection via a nationwide referendum, Santrich was offered amnesty for his terrorist activities as well as a seat in the Colombian Congress alongside nine other senior commanders.
Santrich allegedly smuggled ten tons of cocaine into the United States in 2017, after his amnesty had ended. He was arrested in April 2018 on a U.S. extradition request. He was controversially freed in May on orders of the Colombian Supreme Court but required to testify in court on Tuesday so the case could proceed.
However, Santrich went missing on July 3 while staying in a reintegration zone in Cesar province, around 20 miles from the Venezuelan border, sparking fears that he fled to Venezuela where he is likely to receive political asylum from Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime. The Supreme Court has now issued a police warrant and requested assistance from Interpol.
Colombian President Iván Duque, who as a senator opposed the peace deal and is known for his much tougher stance against left-wing terrorism than Santos, said that the search for Santrich, whose real name is Paucias Hernández Solarte, would be “relentless.”
“The arrest warrant issued by the Supreme Court against ‘Jesús Santrich’ … was a decision expected by all Colombians, outraged by the spectacle of mocking justice,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have instructed the police to work with prosecutors towards the capture of ‘Jesús Santrich.’ I want to reiterate the Government’s support for ex-combatants who become genuine law-abiding citizens, but we will be relentless with recidivism.”
Di instrucción a la Fuerza Pública para trabajar con la @FiscaliaCol en la captura de alias ‘Jesús Santrich’. Queremos reiterar el acompañamiento del Gobierno a los excombatientes que realizan genuinamente su tránsito a la legalidad, pero seremos implacables con la reincidencia pic.twitter.com/UDsHf3UyaK
— Iván Duque (@IvanDuque) July 10, 2019
The country’s drug trafficking trade boomed following the peace deal in 2016, compared with previous years — a trend that is largely attributed to FARC’s continued operations.
The FARC, responsible for the murder of at least 220,000 people and the disappearance of another 100,000, has also seen many of its members allegedly defect to other Marxist terrorist groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN). In January, the ELN took responsibility for the bombing of a police cadet graduation ceremony, killing 21 people and injuring dozens more.