The Government of the United States has announced it would be dropping Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) from the Terrorist Group list.
The announcement came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was taking part in Colombia celebrations marking the 5th anniversary of the peace deal between the South American country's government and the guerrilla group.
The administration of President Joseph Biden has notified the US Congress about its intentions, it was reported in Washington DC Wednesday.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said they had notified Congress of upcoming actions related to FARC. 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, he explained.
The United States officially designated FARC as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, the halfway point of the rebels' six-decade conflict with the government.
But on Nov. 24, 2016, after negotiations in Cuba, the fearsome guerrilla group members laid down their arms and signed a peace deal with then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and some of the former rebel combatants who have become a legal political party.
The peace deal set Colombia on a path to a just and lasting peace. So we remain fully committed to working with our Colombian partners on the implementation of the peace accord, Price said.
Price also 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.”
Nevertheless, such a move would not go unnoticed by the US opposition. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out Wednesday against removing the terror designation from “an organization of Marxist–Leninist narco-terrorists,” which for decades has killed, kidnapped, and extorted Colombians.”
“They have murdered and seized American citizens. They continue to pose an acute threat to Colombian security and American interests across the region, Cruz went on. “Removing FARC from the list of terrorist organizations will embolden them to widen their violence and interfere with civilian activities,” he added.
Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) agreed. “Once again, Biden chooses appeasement and proves he doesn’t care about the security and 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 Wall Street 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 WSJ. “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. After the peace pact, some of the rebels entered politics but others objected to the agreement and continue to operate in the Colombian countryside.
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 WSJ.
Established in 1964, FARC was responsible for a campaign of terror including kidnappings and summary executions which resulted in around 260,000 deaths.