Maduro says fugitive ex-leaders of FARC are 'welcome' in Venezuela

"Timochenko and Catatumbo and the FARC are welcome to Venezuela when they want to come because they are peace leaders. Of course, they are welcome, I was waiting, I was glad when I knew they were coming," said Maduro

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the closing ceremony of the Sao Paulo Forum at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the closing ceremony of the Sao Paulo Forum at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Reuters | Deisy Buitrago

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President Nicolás Maduro said Sunday that two former fugitives from the demobilized FARC guerrillas are "welcome to Venezuela," days after Colombia denounced that they would be hidden in the oil country.

Leer en español: Maduro dice que exlíderes prófugos de las FARC son 'bienvenidos' en Venezuela

These are Seuxis Paucias Hernández, better known as Jesús Santrich, and Luciano Marín Arango, aka Iván Márquez, who participated in the peace negotiation between the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end a conflict of more than half a century that has left 260,000 dead.

"They had announced that Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich were coming, I was waiting. Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich are welcome to Venezuela and the Sao Paulo Forum when they want to come, they are the two peace leaders," Maduro said at the closing of the event Latin American leftist politicians and activists, accompanied by the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

"Timochenko and Catatumbo and the FARC are welcome to Venezuela when they want to come because they are peace leaders, of course, they are welcome, I was waiting, I was glad when I knew they were coming," Maduro said referring to some versions that said Santrich and Márquez would participate in the Sao Paulo Forum.

Márquez disappeared since mid-2018 before becoming a congressman, while Santrich took office as a legislator in June of this year after recovering his freedom in the middle of a process in which he is accused of being involved in a plan to send 10 tons of Cocaine to the United States valued at 320 million dollars.

Read also: Maduro asks Colombia's military to 'disobey' orders against Venezuela

But Santrich disappeared at the end of June and failed days after a subpoena in the Supreme Court to attend an investigation as part of the process, so the court ordered his capture. The former fugitive from the FARC denied the accusations against him before disappearing and he said it was a "montage."

Security sources and the Government of Colombia argue that Márquez and Santrich hide in Venezuela, as do other FARC ex-commanders who departed from the peace agreement, and some guerrilla commanders of the National Liberation Army.

Tensions between neighboring countries have worsened since President Iván Duque, along with more than 50 countries, including the United States, recognized Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition and the National Assembly, as president in charge at the end of January. Guaidó took office by claiming that Maduro's re-election was fraudulent.

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