U.S. Set to Remove Colombia Rebel Group FARC From Terrorism List

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, front left, and the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, Rodrigo Londono, known by the alias Timochenko, shake hands after signing the peace agreement between the government and the FARC to end over 50 years of conflict, in Cartagena, Colombia.  (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

The Biden administration plans to remove Colombian rebel group FARC from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, five years after the rebels signed a peace agreement with Bogota, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

U.S. officials could announce the delisting of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, as soon as Tuesday or in coming days, one of the sources told Reuters.

FARC reached a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, ending its part in the Andean country’s internal armed conflict, which has left millions displaced and more than 260,000 dead.

The deal was negotiated with the support of then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Joe Biden served as vice president.

The FARC was first designated by the United States as a terrorist organization in October 1997.

Following demobilization the guerrillas entered politics, initially calling themselves the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, which kept the same FARC acronym, though later rebranded as Comunes. The party’s leadership received 10 congressional seats after the peace deal was signed.

The peace deal has been beset with challenges, including the decision of several former commanders – who argued the pact was not being fulfilled – to return to arms, as well as the killings of around 300 former members of FARC across the country, according to local advocacy group Indepaz.

Dropping the terrorism designation could help bolster the agreement with a U.S. show of support.

“We have started the process of consulting with Congress on actions that we are taking with regards to the FARC,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a daily briefing, adding that there would be more details in coming days.

He declined to specify whether that would mean removing the FARC from the terrorism blacklist but said the Biden administration was committed to the “implementation and preservation” of the Colombia peace accord.

The Colombian government, one of Washington’s closest allies in Latin America, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was not known what, if any, consultations were held in advance with Colombian officials.

The Biden administration’s decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed to Reuters by two sources familiar with the matter, including a congressional aide.

Among the arguments for the delisting was that former FARC members were now involved in so many aspects of Colombian political and economic life that it was hard to provide certain types of U.S. aid due to restrictions imposed by the blacklist,
one of the U.S. sources said.

Groups on the blacklist face the freezing of U.S. assets and prohibition on Americans providing aid or doing business with them.