US expected to remove Farc from international terrorist list

The announcement comes five years after the demobilised rebel group signed a peace deal with the Colombian government

The US is expected to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) from its international terrorist list, five years after the demobilised rebel group signed a peace deal with the Colombian government and formed a political party.

The announcement is expected to bolster the struggling peace process, which has been implemented haltingly 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 happen as early as Tuesday afternoon, while the state department said that it had provided notifications to Congress on “upcoming actions” regarding the Farc.

The US added the Farc to its terror 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 across the country.

“Taking the Farc off the list is long overdue, since the group that the state department listed doesn’t exist any more,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (Wola), a thinktank. “13,600 guerrillas demobilized and became ex-guerrillas in 2017.”

“More than four years later, more than 90% of them remain demobilized and transitioning to civilian life. To keep penalizing and shunning all contact with them is not only absurd, it’s counterproductive,” he said.

The Farc took up arms against Colombia’s government in 1964, claiming to fight in defense of peasant farmers. They soon turned to drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom to bolster their war chest, carrying out massacres and atrocities over decades of civil war that killed more than 260,000 and left more than 7 million displaced. Government forces, state-aligned paramilitary groups and other leftist rebels contributed to the bloodshed.

A peace deal was signed in October 2016, formally ending the war and promising rural development, though the accord failed to pass a public referendum. Colombia’s then-president, Juan Manuel Santos, won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts despite the defeat, and subsequently ratified a revised peace deal via Congress the following month.

But since the signing of the peace deal, the limitations on Farc members imposed by the terror listing have hindered the accord’s implementation, analysts say, as individually listed former combatants are unable to access the local banking system.

“US sanctions have handicapped economic and political reintegration, penalizing ex-combatants who laid down their arms in good faith and continue to remain committed to the process despite enormous challenges,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, a Colombia analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG). “We have heard testimonies of ex-combatants who have had to go from bank to bank in order to open accounts, a basic requisite to start cooperative agricultural projects.”

The terror listing also hamstrung the US government’s ability to support and influence the peace deal, which was negotiated with the backing of then-president Barack Obama’s administration, Dickinson said.

“US officials cannot meet with the former Farc, they cannot sit in the same room, USaid cannot provide financing to any projects whose beneficiaries include the Farc, or might include them,” Dickinson said. “Five years after the signing of the accord, these restrictions are illogical and counterproductive.”


Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Blow to Colombian peace deal as former Farc rebel chief arrested on drug charges
Prosecutors accuse Seauxis Hernández, AKA Jesus Santrich, of conspiring to ship 10,000kg of cocaine to the US but supporters cry setup

Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá

10, Apr, 2018 @7:03 PM

Article image
Farc deal opens path for Colombia's other rebels: 'The future has to be about war'
The ELN, now the country’s biggest rebel army, remains deeply at odds with the government as an October ceasefire comes to an end

Mathew Charles in Santa María de la Loma de Bicordó

07, Jan, 2018 @7:30 AM

Article image
Deforestation soars in Colombia after Farc rebels' demobilization
Area of deforestation climbed 44% in 2016 compared with year before, as criminal groups have swooped in promote illegal logging and mining

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

11, Jul, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
What the Farc files really reveal | Greg Grandin and Miguel Tinker Salas

Greg Grandin and Miguel Tinker Salas: A conservative thinktank's attempt to reheat widely discredited Colombian military claims about Farc is pure black propaganda

Greg Grandin and Miguel Tinker Salas

10, May, 2011 @7:30 PM

Article image
Colombia's former Farc rebel chief 'Timochenko' to run for president
Timochenko, real name Rodrigo Londoño, will contest 2018 election after Farc guerrillas demobilised last year ending 52 years of war

Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá

01, Nov, 2017 @8:43 PM

Article image
Splits form among Colombia's Farc rebels after commanders expelled
Five mid-level commanders pushed out of group for failure to join peace deal as statement calls on their apparent followers ‘to distance themselves’

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

14, Dec, 2016 @6:22 PM

Article image
Colombia peace process weathers the storm as Farc hands in weapons
40% of rebels’ arsenal has been decommissioned, marking another success in a process that has often stumbled

Joe Parkin Daniels in La Elvira

16, Jun, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Nobel peace prize revives hopes of Colombia's peace process with Farc
Honor bestowed upon Juan Manuel Santos surprised many Colombians who believed his chances had been scuttled by popular rejection of the peace deal

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá

07, Oct, 2016 @5:00 PM

Article image
'Unarmed, we are nothing': Farc guerrillas wary of future without guns
Colombia’s government and rebel commanders hope Farc will become a leftist political party but members fear giving up weapons will make them vulnerable

Sibylla Brodzinsky in the Cordillera Central mountains

11, Jul, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
Colombian government and Farc rebels announce ceasefire deal to end war
Agreement to end 52-year conflict, which has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced millions, includes demobilisation and reintegration of fighters

Staff and agencies in Havana

22, Jun, 2016 @3:44 PM