Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was a member of the FARC Secretariat. He is widely considered to have been one of the main political and ideological leaders of the now disbanded guerrilla group, which made him a major force within the new political party that emerged from the peace process.
Iván Márquez was born on June 6, 1955 in Florencia, the capital city of Colombia’s southern Caquetá department. Like many of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) oldest members, Márquez was part of the Colombian Communist Party Youth Organization (Juventud Comunista Colombiana – JUCO), joining in 1977. As a member of the JUCO, he supported the FARC in part by taking provisions to the group in the countryside. He later joined the FARC in 1985 as a political commissioner (“comisario político”) for one of the rebels’ most active units, the 14th Front in Caquetá. In the early 1980s, as part of a peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC, Márquez became a top emissary for the rebels’ nascent political party, the Patriotic Union (Union Patriótica – UP). He was later elected as a city council member and then as an alternate congressman for Caquetá.
In 1987, as the persecution of UP members intensified, the FARC called Márquez and other top rebel emissaries in the party back to the mountains. For his efforts with the UP, the rebels named him commander of the Southwest Bloc. In the 1990s, Márquez was transferred to the northwestern part of the country where he took part in a bloody battle for control of the Urabá region along the Colombia-Panama border. This earned Márquez respect within the FARC as a strong military commander, complementing his political skills. The combination of these two abilities contributed to his trajectory as an international representative of the organization. His activities and influence spread far and wide: he has become the guerrillas’ top foreign emissary, and intelligence officials in Colombia also say he is heading efforts to infiltrate universities and create student federations to support the FARC’s political and military strategy in Colombian cities.
Thanks to his political and diplomatic skills, Márquez was chosen to head the FARC’s delegation for peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana in 2012. He continued to head the guerrillas’ negotiating team after the talks moved to Havana in November of the same year. After four years at the negotiating table followed by the signing of the peace accords, Márquez joined the Monitoring and Implementation Commission of the Agreement (Comisión de Seguimiento, Impulso y Verificación a la Implementación del Acuerdo), the mechanism created to ensure both parties implement the accords.
With the transition of the FARC to a political party called the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común – FARC) between August and September 2017, the former guerrilla Secretariat became the party’s national directorate. Márquez received the most votes during the party’s founding congress.
According to the US State Department, Iván Márquez was in charge of the FARC’s drug policies, as well as directing and controlling the production, manufacture and distribution of cocaine. Eventually, the State Department offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest. He also commanded FARC units accused of kidnapping, extortion and murder. Before the peace agreement was signed and amnesty was subsequently granted, the Colombian government considered Márquez a narco-terrorist.
Before heading the FARC’s peace negotiating team, Márquez mostly operated in northern Colombia. As commander of the Caribbean Bloc, his zones of influence included the Serranía del Perijá mountain range, the departments of La Guajira and Cesar, and some regions along the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Allies and Enemies
Historically, the main enemies of FARC leaders like Márquez have included extreme right-wing elements of Colombia’s political elite, some of whom have had ties to paramilitary groups. However, the FARC has seen its share of infighting as well. A rift formed in its ruling body when Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias “Timochenko,” assumed leadership of the FARC because Márquez was also a candidate for the guerrilla group’s top position. Although the replacement of FARC commanders had been resolved through its handover mechanism, the succession of Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas, alias “Alfonso Cano,” was a challenge for the rebel group. In the wake of successful military operations against its commanders, the FARC increasingly depended on young leaders due to its need to continue with the chain of command. This meant that even though Márquez was a strong contender for the top leadership position, Timochenko took the reins because he had more years of service in the Secretariat under his belt.
The division became most evident as the FARC transitioned into a political party. Márquez earned more votes than Timochenko to be elected to the party’s national directorate after running on a more critical line regarding the implementation of the peace agreement, and can now be considered the leader of the FARC political party. The party has a high risk of criminalization, and counts among its members Seuxis Paucis Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich;” Milton de Jesus Toncel, alias “Joaquin Gomez;” Henry Castellanos, alias “Romaña;” and Hernán Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa.”
The April 2018 arrest of Jesús Santrich for drug trafficking represented one of the most critical moments of the Havana peace agreement. Considering the arrest a setup, Márquez said he would resign from his post in the Colombian Congress — which had been granted to him as part of the accords — until Santrich was freed. In an interview, Márquez stated that not taking up his Senate post was tantamount to saying the peace process had failed. He also took the opportunity to demand that the government comply with stipulations in the agreement that still have not been fulfilled, such as funding productive projects for ex-FARC members.
It was under these complicated circumstances that Márquez decided to move to the Training and Reincorporation Space (Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación – ETCR) in the village of Miravalle, which belongs to the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán in Caquetá department. The Miravalle ETCR is run by former FARC leader El Paisa, who previously commanded the Teófilo Forero Mobile Column and is a strong critic of the peace agreement. While Márquez confirmed that El Paisa has no intention of joining the dissident movement, the latter has joined Márquez in expressing concern regarding the Colombian government’s noncompliance with the accords. He has focused on economic reintegration efforts, stating that failure to implement them runs the risk of perpetuating the armed conflict. The fact that one of the most important leaders of the FARC’s new political party seems to be distancing himself from the peace process creates significant uncertainty and further destabilizes the foundations of its implementation.
On April 28, US authorities revealed that they were investigating Márquez for allegedly trafficking cocaine. If true, the former guerrilla commander could face the same fate as Santrich, which would put the peace agreement at substantial risk given that Márquez is one of the most heavily supported leaders in the FARC political party.