US to drop Colombian rebel group FARC from terror list

The Biden administration is taking steps to remove far-left Colombian rebel group FARC from its list of foreign terrorist organizations to show support for a five-year-old peace agreement between the guerilla outfit and the South American country’s government. 

Nov. 30 will mark the fifth anniversary of the deal between FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the government of then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, which ended more than 50 years of fighting.

The State Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had notified Congress of its intention to drop FARC from the list. The effort was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“The peace process and the signing of the peace accord five years ago is something that was a seminal turning point in some ways in the long-running Colombia conflict,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “It’s something we’ve commended, it is something that we have sought at every step of the way to preserve.”

FARC guerrillas march in column during a review at their camp in Apr. 2017.
FARC guerrillas march in column during a review at their camp in Apr. 2017.
AFP/Getty Images

“The peace accord ended five decades of conflict with the FARC, and it set Colombia on a path to a just and lasting peace,” Price added. “And so we remain fully committed to working with our Colombian partners on the implementation of the peace accord.”

Price said a US delegation recently met with current Colombian President Ivan Duque and the country’s foreign minister in Bogota “and obviously, the implementation and preservation of the peace accord was a central topic in those discussions.”

Political officials including Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres (right) meet in Bogota on Wednesday to commemorate five years of the peace treaty between the Colombian Government and FARC.
Political officials including Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres (right) meet in Bogota on Wednesday to commemorate five years of the peace treaty between the Colombian Government and FARC.
EPA

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out Wednesday against removing the terror designation from FARC, which Cruz called “an organization of Marxist–Leninist narco-terrorists.”

“For decades they have killed, kidnapped, and extorted Colombians,” he said. “They have murdered and seized American citizens. They continue to pose an acute threat to Colombian security and to American interests across the region.

“Removing FARC from the list of terrorism organizations will embolden them to widen their violence and interfere with civilian activities,” he added.

A Colombian soldier patrols in Marquetalia, the birthplace of FARC, in Oct. 2021.
A Colombian soldier patrols in Marquetalia, the birthplace of FARC, in Oct. 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) agreed with Cruz, saying it was “absolutely unacceptable” that the administration was taking such a step.

“Once again, Biden chooses appeasement & proves he doesn’t care about the security & stability of Latin America,” Scott wrote on Twitter.

Colombian officials have argued that removing FARC from the list of foreign terror organizations would amount to US recognition that the group is no longer engaged in efforts to overthrow the government by force and has reorganized itself into a political party, the Journal reported.

“For the Biden administration, this is a low-cost thing to do,” Sergio Jaramillo, the Santos administration’s architect of the peace deal, told the newspaper. “It sends the signal to the FARC, ‘it has been five years, you’ve done your bit, behaved properly, and we’re delisting you.’”

The Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, helped negotiate the deal between the Colombian government and FARC, which was designated a terrorist organization by the US in 1997. 

Following the signing of the pact, some of the rebels entered politics but others in the group who objected to the agreement continue to operate in the Colombian countryside.

FARC guerillas members pose for a picture in 2016.
FARC guerillas members pose for a picture in 2016.
AFP/Getty Images

Dropping the terrorist designation would also allow the US to fund programs in Colombia that are operated by former FARC fighters, according to the Journal. 

Bernard Aronson, a former US envoy who participated in the peace negotiations, said ditching the designation sends a message to other violent groups around the world.

“If groups that were once violent revolutionary groups are never allowed to get off the list, that’s one less incentive for them to make peace,” Aronson told the outlet. “You undermine incentives for other groups to renounce terrorism, renounce violent struggle.”

View of a landmine laid by FARC guerrillas, pictured in Oct. 2021.
A landmine laid by FARC guerrillas.
AFP via Getty Images

Established in 1964, FARC was responsible for a campaign of terror in the South American country — including kidnappings and summary executions — that led to the deaths of 260,000 people.

With Post wires