efe-epaCaracas

Venezuela's foreign minister said Friday that Colombia's president bears exclusive responsibility for the new call to arms made this week by a group of dissident FARC leaders.

Jorge Arreaza made his remarks to reporters at the Foreign Ministry's headquarters in Caracas.

"It's unbelievable that Ivan Duque would have the utter audacity ... to try to shift to third countries and third persons his exclusive responsibility for the planned dismantling of the peace process and non-compliance with the commitments assumed and signed by the Colombian state," Arreaza said in a prepared statement.

Speaking after the erstwhile second-in-command of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Ivan Marquez, issued his call to arms in a video that appeared this week, the foreign minister urged those responsible for the Colombian peace accord to "exhaust all efforts to avoid more suffering for the civilian population."

Arreaza also said that with his "arbitrary decisions" Duque had openly flouted the commitments Colombia's government acquired through the peace process.

The foreign minister said Venezuela was consulting "with the rest of the accompanying and guarantor countries to the peace process to come up with immediate strategies that allow the sides to reestablish contacts."

For his part, Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello, regarded as the oil-rich country's No. 2 official, said Thursday that Venezuela has nothing to do with what occurs in Colombia.

"We deeply regret what's happening in Colombia ... which remains in a (decades-old) spiral of violence. And it's not Venezuela's fault that that started. That began because in Colombia ... the oligarchy killed (popular politician) Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. That's where it began. What does Venezuela have to do with that? Nothing," Cabello said.

He added that Venezuela over the years welcomed "more than 5 million Colombian brothers and sisters" displaced by the armed conflict.

(The 1948 assassination of Gaitan sparked a 10-year-long civil war known as "La Violencia."

About six years after that conflict ended with a power-sharing pact between Colombia's two main parties, a government offensive against peasant self-defense groups spurred the late Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda, who was pursued by death squads during La Violencia, to form the FARC, a rebel army that fought a decades-long revolution until signing a peace deal in 2016.)

Cabello's remarks came after Duque on Thursday accused his Venezuelan counterpart of being behind Marquez's call for a renewal of the armed struggle in Colombia.

"We Colombians must be clear that we are not seeing the birth of a new guerrilla movement, but rather the criminal threats of a band of narco-terrorists who enjoy the hospitality of Nicolas Maduro's dictatorship," Duque said in a televised address to the nation.

States that provide "protection to terrorism violate Resolution 1373 of the United Nations Security Council," the rightist Colombian president said.

"No country can harbor them (terrorists), and for that reason we will move forward in the issuance of Interpol Red Notices" for the FARC renegades, he said hours after Marquez signaled the start of a "new phase of the armed struggle."

Marquez, whose whereabouts had been unknown for more than a year, reappeared in a 32-minute video dated Aug. 29, 2019, along with other former FARC leaders.

In the video, Marquez said that his faction was somewhere in the vicinity of the Inirida river, in an Amazonian region near Colombia's borders with Venezuela and Brazil.

Speaking alongside a score of men and women dressed in army fatigues and armed with rifles, Marquez said he was calling for the return to arms because the Duque administration has "betrayed" the peace accord that he helped negotiate and which the FARC signed in November 2016 with then-President Juan Manuel Santos.

Marquez said that over the past two years more than 500 social leaders and 150 ex-guerrilla fighters have been killed amid the "indifference and indolence" of Duque's government.

The spate of killings of activists and ex-guerrillas has revived memories of the Union Patriotica, a party founded in 1985 as the FARC were engaged in peace talks with the government and exploring the idea of abandoning armed struggle in favor of electoral politics.

The UP fared respectably at the polls in 1986, provoking a campaign of terror by paramilitaries and some elements of the security forces that resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 party members and the destruction of Union Patriotica as a political force.

Members of another insurgency that laid down their arms, M-19, met a similar fate in the 1990s.

But Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londoño, the chairman of the political party that is the political successor to the FARC guerrillas and uses the same acronym, said Thursday that despite the challenges and obstacles the majority of its members remain committed to the peace deal.

"We feel ashamed. I apologize to the Colombian people, to the international community and to the countries, such as Cuba and Norway, that went to such lengths to support us in this process," the chairman of the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force said.

"To proclaim the armed struggle in the Colombia of today is a delirious error," Londoño said. EFE-EPA

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