Interview with FARC peace negotiator Jesus Santrich from his prison cell

This is a translation from an article published in El Espectador on 23 Abril 2018.

The arrest of Jesús Santrich, accused of drug trafficking after the signing of the peace agreement and the request for his extradition by the United States, is jeopardising the Havana Agreement. From La Picota, where he is held prisoner and is carrying out a hunger strike that is already beginning to wreak havoc on his health, the guerrilla leader answered a questionnaire sent by El Espectador. He insists on his innocence, saying that everything is a hoax, he attacks the Attorney General, Néstor Humberto Martínez, speaks of betrayal of the agreement and assures that his battle is ‘homeland or death’ and that he has never considered submitting to the ordinary Colombian justice system or the North American justice system.

You say that the accusations against you are a judicial hoax against the FARC; who do you think could be behind this and what are his/her interests?

There are many enemies of peace, not only outside of the State institutions, but also within them. Their interest is the failure of the process. Failure to fulfill commitments of mayor significance, such as the comprehensive rural reform or political reform, for example. Large landowners and power groups are involved, clearly identifiable in political parties such as Centro Democrático, the so-called Uribe-clan in general and Cambio Radical.

A prominent figure in the obstruction of the agreements is the Attorney General, Nestor Humberto Martínez, who joins the voices of hatred and revenge against the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force. This is the Attorney who imposed barriers to disfigure the JEP, who constrained the start-up of the Unit for the Investigation and Dismantling of Paramilitarism and who, among many other things, has set himself the task of seeking at any cost the prosecution of the members of the FARC. Meanwhile, in his office there are around 15,000 documents of cases referring to the paramilitary forces, and nobody cares about them. The paramilitaries’ financiers seem to be sacred cows in this country, Álvaro Uribe Vélez included, who is also an organizer and perpetrator of massacres like El Aro.

However, the Government has said that the arrest warrant was issued in a court in the Southern District of New York State, after an investigation by the DEA, through Interpol, and that it was just a case of international cooperation …

What prevailed was an huge interest of the prosecutor to act against me. I had denounced many months ago, perhaps more than a year, the decision he had taken to set up any kind of process that would put me in the hands of ordinary justice and that is what he is doing. I don’t have processes in Colombia on this matter, nor was there a formal request for extradition at the moment of my arrest, which should have been handled by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and not by the Attorney General. But this is a matter of lawyers and my struggle since April 9 is essentially political, not judicial, because regarding this kind of judicial hoax, there is usually very little that can be done; apart from the Attorney General’s power, there is the omnipotent power of the US embassy in Colombia, which is the one that truly governs the decisions of this intervened and subordinated State.

Marlon Marín, Iván Márquez’s nephew, traveled to the United States to be a protected witness and provide more information that would involve you. What is your relationship with him?

I don’t have much information and it is plausible, given the strange status he has been granted, that he will take the route that those who protect him will mark for him, with all the elements and special effects of a Hollywood movie. But the truth is that my relationship with Marlon Marín was within the framework of his supposed efforts to establish productive projects, together with Dr. Carlos Simancas, from the Post-Conflict Ministry. That was how he introduced people to me, with the idea of ​​financing “econative” farms in the country, considering that I am a member of the Commission for Follow-up and Promotion of the agreements, the so-called Csivi. In the end nothing was ever materialized, only promises.

But Attorney Martinez told President Juan Manuel Santos that there was conclusive evidence in this case …

The place where it should be presented and where it can be contextualized and refuted is in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which is where any type of process should have started. At this moment what we see is an irresponsible treatment through the media, which characterizes Mr. Martínez, one of prejudgment and premature verdict.

You yourself admitted to have had contact with capo Rafael Caro Quintero, but said that you believed him to be an entrepreneur. Who presented him to you? What did you talk about?

I know him only by name and a telephone greeting, carried out because of Marlon Marín’s request to thank him, as an entrepreneur, for his interest in peace in Colombia. Those who came to speak with me on two occasions, briefly, were his representatives, who, I must say, went through the usual police control that has always been carried out in the place where I lived, which is also the place where I attend almost all of my meetings. These contacts were made with the full awareness that the interlocutor was an entrepreneur interested in productive projects, never a word was said outside of this context. Now, according to the latest news, we should ask ourselves if these people really existed or were part of the staging.

It is hard to believe that one of the most wanted “narcos” in Mexico has come into contact with you posing as an entrepreneur … What was he looking for? What could he gain in Colombia with the productive projects of the post-conflict?

I do not know anyone as capo, I do not have that information, and if it was credible to me that the government wanted to make a peace agreement, it did not seem incredible to me that other people in the world wanted to support it, as indeed has been the case during the course of the implementation. What I do find strange is that, if these people are recognized “narcos”, why weren’t they stopped by the police control in my house? I do not have, nor does any ordinary Colombian, a way to verify the antecedents of our interlocutors; I have no idea who can be a mobster in Colombia, much less abroad. It is worth noting that neither these proposals nor any other presented by any entrepreneur commit economic transactions with the FARC or any of its members, because we lack the resources to develop initiatives, however small they may be.


The same said about the Mexicans that would make up the Sinaloa cartel and talked with you. Was not there an “intelligence” process to know who you met with?

Frankly no. One believes in the good faith of the people and the fact that Marlon Marín was working on the issue of productive projects, either on his own account or in relation to the Government, and also I thought that police control regarding the members of the FARC would be sufficient and effective. More so if we consider that in places where I have resided in Bogotá there have never been restricted spaces for police officers.

How to understand the image where we see you receiving the money that, according to the DEA, was a kind of password to ensure the success of the business?

My lawyers have not yet described these images to me, it would be necessary to analyze the circumstances and what was received. Generally, if someone gives me something, I receive it and give it to the person who accompanies me, because I can not see it. In any case, nobody in my house ever talked to me about drug deals or gave me money for any reason, nor was it heard from my mouth that I would deliver or receive things related to this. Not in my house, or anywhere. I do not manage the world of the mafia and until now I find out that what the prosecutor has called “el toque” exists. Maybe he does have that kind of experiences, I mean, as a prosecutor, right?

It has been said that his capture has put the peace process in a huge crisis and that this moment is a test of fire, do you consider it that way?


The process has been in crisis for a long time ago, a crisis of trust and credibility, because since the implementation began, this has become a renegotiation; the whole institutionality has trampled principles such as pacta sunt servanda and good faith. Everything led to legal, personal and socio-economic insecurity for people in the process of reincorporation, apart from the underfunding of the plans and programs of the Agreement. For me, and I have said it before, we are already entering the field of state perfidy and we are facing the precipice of a failed agreement. I have said that what is awaiting the members of the FARC, apart from the murders, which already number more than 40 ex-combatants and more than 200 community leaders, is the most persistent judicial persecution we can imagine, the growing political obstruction and the outrageous stigmatization, which places us as pariahs of the earth. That is the peace we have for the moment. The peace of the betrayal of rural reform, which is evidenced in the land law that the government presented to prior consultation and that destroys Law 160 of 1994 and continues to give free rein to the big business owners and landowners, segregating, as always, the rural communities; the betrayal of political reform and its shipwreck in Congress; the failure of the process of substitution of illicit crops; the betrayal of the reform to the Law of Victims, apart from the betrayal of the reincorporation process.

What do you think could be the political effect of your capture on the ex-guerrilla fighters?

It is one more factor that adds to the effect of all the breaches that have accumulated and that have broken trust and even faith in what we sign. For my part, I have warned my colleagues that we have long been mocked. Nothing is changing other than to worsen and violate commitments. Each one must analyze and draw their conclusions, to collectively begin to look for a road that does not lead us to defeat. So, the test is not my capture, but the debacle in which is the fulfillment of the Agreement on the part not of the Government, but of the whole of the State. It is worth remembering that this was not Santos’ commitment but a State commitment.


It is clear that your case should be analyzed by the JEP to verify if the information handled by the United States is true. What happens if everything is verified and it is confirmed that there were crimes after the signing of the peace?

The JEP should have been the starting channel, but at this moment the illegal action of the Attorney General is maintained. And although this is not the SJP that we agreed, we managed to create a body that is about to show its probity, which I hope will not be that of the nefarious former Secretary Correa. In any case, when one reads the response of the Court of Bogotá that responded to the request for habeas corpus, you may observe that the weight of the pressures of the established powers is more powerful, the Attorney’s Office included. It seems that nobody dares to oppose Martínez, and less a demand from their bosses at the US embassy. We hope for the JEP to overcome these demons. For my part, I have a clear conscience, I trust in the credibility of my comrades in struggle and those who know me, beyond anything they might say within this plot of infamies and lies, because a hoax is a hoax. That is why I am very aware of what happened to “Simón Trinidad”: neither his magnificent defense nor the peace process served to liberate him. Then it becomes clear what kind of people we are facing.

And if your extradition is approved, are you preparing now for a trial in New York?

I will answer the remaining questions shortly. As I foresaw and warned about this type of events, I think that I will not be the only one against whom action will be taken, because the objective is to give the FARC a death thrust. That is why I have said that since April 9, I began my last battle, declaring a hunger strike that is fundamentally aimed at achieving the almost impossible fulfillment of the agreements, for the release of more than 600 comrades who continue to be detained after more than a year of the implementation of the Amnesty Law, for fulfillment with the victims and for stopping the blackmail of extradition and the restauration of national sovereignty. In these terms, I have never considered submitting myself to the venal and corrupt ordinary justice, much less to a Yankee court. This will never be possible, listen carefully: never. My battle is a ‘homeland or death’ battle, of gratitude to life; a battle in order to uphold dignity. I have my head up, I have my conscience clean; my moral, my spirit and my will are reaching the very roof of heaven. Only cowards surrender and betray. When the difficulties get worse, the real revolutionaries fight to death.

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