Seuxis Pausías Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” is a well-known member of the General Staff of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), both for his ideological conviction and his trademark keffiyeh (Middle-Eastern headdress).
He was one of the most important FARC delegates at the peace talks between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government as well as for the drafting of the final agreement. He then became a member of the Commission tasked with overseeing the implementation of the peace agreements and was granted a seat in Congress as a representative of the nascent FARC political party, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común). But his role within the party was interrupted after he faced charges for his alleged involvement in sending a drugs shipment to the United States, after his demobilization.
Hernández Solarte was born in 1966 in Toluviejo, in the department of Sucre, where his parents were teachers. During his student years, he joined the Colombia Communist Youth (Juventud Comunista de Colombia – JUCO) and them became a militant member of the Patriotic Union (Unión Patriótica – UP), a recognized left-wing party. After graduation, he became a local official in the municipality of Sucre.
In 1991, he joined the FARC after one of his colleagues was killed by members of the former Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS). His alias within the guerrilla group was taken as tribute to his friend, Jesús Santrich. His role in the creation of Resistance Radio (Radio Resistencia) and his friendship with Luciano Marin Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” saw him quickly gain importance within the FARC. He became a key figure within the 19th Front of the FARC’s Caribbean Bloc, despite suffering from Leber’s Disease, a degeneration of the eye which progressively left him blind.
One of his most important tasks was to help lead the FARC’s communications and propaganda efforts through a clandestine network of broadcasts such Cadena Radial Bolivariana and Voz de la Resistencia. It is believed that the website, resistencia-colombia.org, which featured exclusive content from the FARC, was also run by Santrich.
He then joined the FARC’s General Staff in 2008. Later, his participation in the peace process with the government of President of Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) gave him the experience needed to become one of the FARC’s main negotiators during the talks with the administration of Juan Manuel Santos which began in 2012.
Prior to the peace process, Hernández lived along the border with Venezuela. He played a key role in the relations of the FARC with Caracas, as Santrich is known to have been an avid believer of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution. In 2007, he and Iván Márquez met with Chávez in Venezuela to discuss a humanitarian agreement.
After the signing of the final peace agreement, Santrich became one of the three FARC representatives in the Monitoring and Implementation Commission of the Agreement (CSIVI), overseeing the peace process. He was also set to be one of the 10 FARC representatives in Congress, as agreed during the negotiations.
However, his entry into Congress was blocked by his arrest, after being charged in the New York Southern District Court for allegedly participating in drug trafficking after the peace agreement was signed.
The legal process against Santrich has led to clashes between Colombian institutions. However, the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz – JEP) decided to maintain the no extradition guarantee for Santrich. Its reasoning was that, after revising the evidence provided by the Attorney General’s Office, it was impossible to confirm whether the crime Santrich is accused of was committed after the signing of the peace agreement.
In May 2019, the JEP ordered the immediate release of Santrich, although his case would remain under investigation. However, minutes after leaving jail, he was immediately rearrested by Colombian authorities, who stated new evidence showed his participation in the drug trafficking operation.
During his time with the FARC, Santrich was one of the main leaders of the Caribbean Bloc. Due to his degenerative illness leaving him blind, he became known as a spokesperson, focusing on ideology and propaganda, rather than on military action. After the amnesty granted by the peace agreement, he was accused of participating in sending 10 tons of cocaine to the United States. This operation allegedly happened between June 2017 and April 2018, and involved a complex network of criminal groups, including the ex–FARC mafia, the National Liberation Army (Ejército Nacional del Liberación – ELN), the Urabeños and Mexican cartels.
Hernández joined the Caribbean Block of the FARC, specifically the 19th Front that operated in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The group also had influence in the region of the Montes de María, the Serrania de Perijá and the departments of Sucre and Córdoba. By consolidating himself as an important member of the General Staff, he was able to expand his influence to other regions such as Nariño, Putumayo, Guainía and Caquetá and establish contact with important leaders of criminal groups such as the dissidence of the FARC and the Urabeños.
Allies and Enemies
Hernández is known to have been close to Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simón Trinidad,” who was extradited to the United States in 2004. He also maintains a strong friendship with Luciano Marín Arango, alias “Iván Márquez,” another former top FARC commander, member of the General Staff and former leader of the Caribbean Bloc. Outside the guerrilla, Santrich maintained contacts with other dissident FARC groups, especially those led by Miguel Botache Santillana, alias “Gentil Duarte” and Géner García Molina, alias “John 40”; as well as the Urabeños and the ELN for drug trafficking. Santrich also maintained connections to cartels in Mexico. It was revealed he had direct contact with Rafael Caro Quintero, alias “Don Rafa,” one of the founders of the now defunct Guadalajara Cartel and an important member of the current Sinaloa Cartel.
The JEP’s decision to apply the no-extradition guarantee to Santrich partially resolved the judicial limbo he found himself in. The court found it was not possible to establish whether the drug trafficking charges facing Santrich related to actions which took place after the peace agreement and its amnesty. However, the consequences of this decision were wide-ranging.
Colombia’s Attorney General, Néstor Humberto Martínez, and his deputy, María Paulina Holguín, resigned from their roles over this decision. And Santrich’s rearrest after being freed from jail has dealt a severe blow to the FARC Party and the implementation of the peace agreement.