US removes Colombia’s FARC rebel group from terrorist list

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Tuesday removed Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces from its list of foreign terrorist organizations as many of the group’s former commanders turned to conventional politics after decades of conflict.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the group, known as the FARC, had been “formally disbanded and disarmed” and “no longer exists as a united organization engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity or the possibility or intent.” has to.”

The move, which has been criticized by several prominent Republicans, is a sign of the Biden administration’s support for a fragile peace deal that the Colombian government signed with the FARC in November 2016. The agreement officially ended a five-decade conflict in which the US military backed the government against a left-wing insurgency funded by the drug trade. More than 220,000 people were killed in the fighting.

Colombia had for years urged Washington to remove the FARC from its official list of terrorist groups, and Mr Blinken said in his statement that the shift would allow the United States to “better support the implementation of the 2016 accord.” , including by cooperating with demobilized fighters. .” Many of the FARC’s former top military commanders are now prominent politicians.

Under the deal, more than 13,000 FARC rebels agreed to lay down their arms in exchange for more government investment in neglected rural areas. But the implementation of the agreement is shaky. Government aid in remote areas has been slow to materialize, and groups of armed rebels continue to fight.

After a helicopter carrying Colombian President Iván Duque was attacked in July, the government arrested 10 former FARC rebels and charged them with attempted murder and a car bomb attack on a military base.

Mr Blinken said two rebel groups formed by former FARC commanders who refused to demobilize were classified as terrorist organisations. Segunda Marquetalia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, or FARC-EP, are responsible for armed attacks, killings and hostage-taking, he said.

The United States has also designated several leaders of the two groups as terrorists.

Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s decision to remove the FARC’s designation as a terrorist group. After the planned move was first reported last week by The Wall Street Journal, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Representative Mike McCaul, called the move “an exercise in reconciliation.”

FARC members “have shown no remorse or remorse for their continued narco-terrorism against innocent Colombians and Americans,” Mr McCaul said. wrote on Twitter.

“President Biden’s decision to remove the FARC from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations will encourage terrorist groups across Latin America, empower drug smugglers and pave the way for Castro-chavismo in Colombia,” Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement. a statement.

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