A top rebel leader in Colombia who’s designated a terrorist in the U.S. and an alleged drug trafficker, was just killed in neighboring Venezuela, according to the Colombian government.
Miguel Botache Santillana, known as Gentil Duarte, was the leader of a faction of the now-demobilized guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC for its Spanish acronym) who refused to disarm several years ago following the country’s peace agreement.
Gentil Duarte was one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, and Colombia’s President Iván Duque called his death “good news for Colombia.” In reference to his death, he added: “All the symbols of evil must disappear.”
Gentil Duarte was wanted on a wide variety of charges, including environmental crimes, his connection to the death of 14 former FARC rebels, and the forced displacement of civilians. His faction of former FARC rebels has also been connected to drug trafficking and illegal mining.
Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said Gentil Duarte’s alleged death happened during “a clash between … drug trafficking and terrorist groups,” according to Reuters.
Molano claimed that Gentil Duarte was hiding across the border in Venezuela after several failed attempts by the Colombian government to catch him. VICE World News could not independently verify Gentil Duarte’s death, nor the government’s version of events, but it has been widely reported.
The FARC guerrilla group was founded in the 1960s on Marxist-Leninist ideology and remained active for roughly half a century. In 2016, the FARC agreed to a ceasefire with the Colombian government after years of negotiations and peace talks. Not all members accepted the terms. While around 13,000 members of the FARC demobilized at the time, it’s estimated that roughly 2,400 remain active to this day. Gentil Duarte was a top boss of one of the breakaway factions that rejected the deal.
In the years since, the Colombian government has issued numerous arrest warrants for Gentil Duarte along with a nearly $1 million reward for his capture. The U.S. State Department declared his faction of the FARC dissidents as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019, and listed Gentil Duarte along with Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernandez, alias Ivan Mordisco, and Euclides Espana Caicedo, alias Jhonier, as its top bosses.
Colombian authorities killed Jhonier in an operation in January, while Ivan Mordisco remains on the lam is believed to be the active leader of the organization.