Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” was a member of the Secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). 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.
Márquez was born June 6, 1955 in Florencia, the capital city of southern Colombia department Caquetá. Like many of the FARC’s oldest members Márquez was part of Colombia’s Communist Party Youth Movement (Juventud Comunista Colombiana – JUCO), joining in 1977. As a member of the JUCO, he supported the FARC, taking provisions to the group in the countryside. He later joined the FARC in 1985 as a political commissioner for one of the rebels’ most active units, the 14th Front in the southern department of 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 Patriotica – UP). He was later elected as a city council member and then as an alternate congressman for Caquetá.
In 1987, as persecution of the 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 Panamanian 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 became the guerrillas’ top foreign emissary, and intelligence officials in Colombia also said he headed efforts to infiltrate universities and create student federations to support the FARC’s political and military strategy in Colombian cities.
No doubt thanks to his political and diplomatic skills, Márquez was chosen to head the FARC’s delegation for peace talks with the Colombian government in 2012. He continued to head the guerrillas’ negotiating team after the talks moved to Havana, Cuba in November of the same year. After four years at the negotiating table and the signing of the peace accords, Márquez joined the Monitoring and Implementation Commission of the Agreement (Comisión de Seguimiento e 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, Márquez was in charge of the FARC’s drug policies, directing and controlling the production and distribution of cocaine. He also allegedly 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.
Prior to heading the FARC’s peace negotiating team, Márquez mostly operated in northern Colombia. As second in command of the Caribbean Bloc, his zone of influence included the Serranía del Perijá mountain range, the departments of La Guajira and Cesar, and some regions along the border with Venezuela.
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.
In the wake of successful military operations against its commanders, the FARC increasingly depended on young leaders due to its need for a clear the chain of command. This meant that even though Márquez was a strong contender for the top leadership position, Timochenko took the reins because of his rank.
The division became most evident as the FARC transitioned into a political party. Márquez earned more votes than Timochenko in elections for the party’s national directorate after running on a more critical line regarding the implementation of the peace agreement.
In the wake of the April 2018 arrest on drug trafficking allegations of another top FARC leader, Seuxis Paucias Hernández, alias “Jesús Santrich,” 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 confirmed that not taking up his post in the Senate 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 for productive projects for ex-FARC members.
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, reports emerged suggesting US authorities are 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 strongly supported leaders in the FARC political party.