The United States is expected to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) from its international terrorist list, five years after the demobilized rebel group signed a peace deal with the Colombian government and formed a political party.
The announcement is expected to bolster the troubled peace process, which has been haltingly implemented as violence from dissident rebel groups and drug traffickers continues to trouble the South American nation.
US officials quoted by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal said the move could take place as early as Tuesday afternoon, while the State Department said it had provided notifications to Congress on “upcoming actions.” concerning the Farc.
The United States added the FARCs to its terrorist list in 1997, when the rebel group was at the height of its power, commanding thousands of fighters and launching large-scale attacks on regional capitals and military bases. The group kidnapped thousands of politicians and ordinary Colombians and planted landmines all over the country.
“It is high time to take the Farc off the list because the group listed by the State Department no longer exists,” said Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (Wola) , a think tank. “13,600 guerrillas demobilized and became ex-guerrillas in 2017.”
“More than four years later, more than 90% of them are still demobilized and in transition to civilian life. To continue to penalize and avoid contact with them is not only absurd, it is counterproductive, ”he said.
The Farc took up arms against the Colombian government in 1964, claiming to be fighting for the defense of the peasants. They quickly turned to drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom to bolster their war chest, committing massacres and atrocities during decades of civil war that killed over 260,000 people and left over 7 million people. displaced. Government forces, state-aligned paramilitary groups and other leftist rebels contributed to the bloodshed.
A peace accord was signed in October 2016, officially ending the war and promising rural development, although the deal failed to pass a public referendum. Then Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts despite the defeat, then ratified a revised peace deal through Congress the following month.
But since the signing of the peace agreement, the limitations imposed on Farc members by the terrorist list have hampered the implementation of the agreement, analysts say, as individually listed veterans cannot access the system. local bank.
“US sanctions have handicapped economic and political reintegration, penalizing ex-combatants who have laid down their arms in good faith and continue to remain engaged in the process despite enormous challenges,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, Colombian analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG). . “We have heard testimonies from ex-combatants who had to go from bank to bank to open accounts, a basic condition for starting cooperative agricultural projects.
The terrorist list has also crippled the ability of the U.S. government to support and influence the peace agreement, which was negotiated with the support of President Barack Obama’s administration, Dickinson said.
“US officials can’t meet with former Farcs, they can’t sit in the same room, USaid can’t fund projects whose beneficiaries include the Farc, or might include them,” Dickson said. “Five years after signing the agreement, these restrictions are illogical and counterproductive.