The United States has announced a program to help the Colombian government rebuild areas of the country ravaged by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terror group whose half-century of violence in the nation’s rural areas has significantly hindered the nation’s progress.
The program, announced by US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Colombian Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín, will initially provide $5 million to be used in the removal of land mines from formerly FARC-controlled areas. Spanish newswire EFE adds that the project is expected to provide $600 million in the next five years for rural development and reconstruction of areas most damaged by FARC terrorist violence.
Mine clearing is an especially important task in the reconstruction of areas once controlled by the FARC, whose 50-year trajectory includes an estimated six-figure death toll, the recruitment of 18,000 child soldiers between 2008 and 2012 alone, and 11,000 deaths or injuries by land mine in the past 25 years. Only Afghanistan ranks above Colombia in the number of land mine incidents hurting civilians.
The FARC have not ceased to be active in Colombia, which may prove a challenge to investing the American money into rehabilitating war-torn areas. While the funds were initially set aside in the hope that peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC senior leadership, all of whom live freely in Havana, Cuba, would prove productive, Blinken vowed that the United States would still invest in aiding Colombia “in the event that they fail.“
Few can argue that the peace talks have been successful. After two years of talks, the FARC declared a “unilateral ceasefire” from Havana in December 2014, after breaking . Protected by the Cuban government, however, FARC leaders were free to break this ceasefire, most notably during last year’s Colombian presidential election. The day after President Obama announced the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, FARC terrorists attacked a Colombian military base, killing ten Colombian soldiers and injuring 17 more. The Havana contingency neither confirmed nor denied a role in planning the attack, which has triggered the renewal of air strikes against FARC targets.
During the George W. Bush administration, the White House invested heavily in diminishing the FARC’s influence in Colombia. According to a 2013 Washington Post investigation, American use of counter-terrorism tactics in use in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time contributed greatly to preventing Colombia from becoming a failed state. After President Bush’s tenure, however, the FARC have been allowed to regroup, and are currently the wealthiest non-jihadist terrorist group in the world.