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Colombian Guerrilla Leader Says Ready to Discuss Peace Again

Guerrilla leader Ivan Marquez, who initially signed a peace deal with the state before taking up arms again three years later, has said he is ready to negotiate once again, a top government official said on Thursday.

Marquez was a senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that signed the deal in 2016 that ended five decades of conflict.

But he later reneged on it and joined other dissidents, claiming the government had betrayed the agreement.

Since then, conservative leader Ivan Duque has been replaced by Colombia’s first ever leftist president, Gustavo Petro, who was elected in June.

Speaking to a local television channel, peace commissioner Danilo Rueda said he had received proposals from the spokespeople for various armed groups, including dissident FARC rebels led by Marquez, who according to military intel lives in neighboring Venezuela.

“We can confirm that he (Marquez) is amongst those that have sent messages,” said Rueda.

Marquez wants to explore the “possibilities of a dialogue towards peace,” added Rueda.

Following the peace deal, former Marxist FARC guerrillas formed a communist political party that is guaranteed 10 seats in congress.

Marquez held one of those until he returned to arms and was expelled from the party.

In July, some Colombian press claimed Marquez had been killed in Venezuela but several days later, then-defense minister Diego Molano said the rebel was receiving hospital treatment in Caracas.

At the time, the right-wing Colombian government and Venezuelan leadership headed by left-wing populist Nicolas Maduro were sworn enemies.

That relationship has markedly improved since Petro took power in August.

Even before his election, Petro let it be known he intended to negotiate a “total peace” with armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and even drug traffickers, including the notorious Gulf Clan.

“It is possible to imagine that we could be on the brink” of a multilateral ceasefire, added Rueda.

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