U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Colombian media Monday that the Obama administration is ready to consider removing the FARC, the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terror group, from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, allowing American banks and businesses to deal with the Marxist narco-terror organization.
“We don’t want to leave people on the list if they don’t belong,” the Associated Press quotes Kerry as stating, who was in town for the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “We clearly are ready to review and make judgments as the facts come in.”
Speaking to Colombia’s RCN Television, Kerry confirmed the U.S. is “reviewing” the FARC’s status as a terrorist organization. “If they disarm, if they stay within their [government-designated transition] camps, if they reintegrate into society, those are aspects that we have to take into consideration in a review,” he said.
RCN notes that the context of the question is the European Union’s decision to review their designation of the FARC as a terrorist group. The EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said the signing of a peace agreement between the FARC and the government of Colombia, along with the return of the group’s terrorist leaders who were previously stationed in Cuba, redefines the terrorist group and “is not just good news for the Colombian people and nation, but for all of us.”
The EU is waiting for confirmation that the FARC’s terrorists have handed over all their weapons to the government before removing them from their terror list, according to Colombia’s Caracol Radio.
Kerry hinted at the potential of removing the FARC from the State Department’s list of terror organizations in August, saying, “we consistently review terrorist group designations with respect to any country that has been designated.” “If FARC makes peace and FARC lives up to the agreement… it would be only natural that within the context of our review process that the United States would take account of the steps that they have taken, which may change or may not change the situation,” he asserted.
Removing the FARC from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations would allow the group to save its money in American banks and do business with American corporations, among other liberties limited by their terror designation currently.
In April 2015, the State Department removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba’s designation was largely a product of its support for FARC leadership, though Havana maintains ties to Iran and reports have indicated support for other terrorist groups such as the Shiite jihadist group Hezbollah.
On Monday, President Juan Manuel Santos shook hands with the head of the FARC, the terrorist known as “Timochenko,” and both men signed the peace agreement negotiated in a series of meetings in Havana last year. “It is a victory for Colombian society along with the international community,” Timochenko said at the event. “Without vast popular support, which grew in recent years, we would not be before this occurrence.”
The deal would require FARC terrorists to leave the inland jungles of Colombia and hand over their weapons to government officials, then live in designated reintegration communities until the government deems them fit to reenter society. A special FARC tribunal will evaluate every terrorist, and only those found guilty of “crimes against humanity” will face any prison time. Those found guilty of “political crimes” will be required to engage in community service, such as removing land mines planted by the FARC during the past five decades of terrorist activity. It is uncertain whether the tribunal will designate cocaine trafficking, forced abortions, abductions, child rape, and forcing children to fight as soldiers as “political crimes” or “crimes against humanity.” An estimated 7,000 FARC terrorists are expected to be reintegrated into Colombian society.
Timochenko and other terror group leaders will be free to establish a political party and have expressed their desire to launch FARC candidates for Congress in 2018. Whether the group will be allowed to use its profits from ransoms and drug trades to fund political campaigns remains to be seen.
The signature Monday does not guarantee the deal will go through, though Santos has already taken multiple victory laps, including during his General Assembly speech at the UN last week. A public referendum vote will take place on October 2. A “no” vote would prevent Santos from implementing the deal, though it is possible the legislature may pass the deal as a law if “no” wins.
The FARC have killed an estimated 250,000 people throughout their existence, and another 100,000 have been “disappeared.” The United States has invested upwards of $10 billion in the fight against the FARC in the past 15 years alone, though efforts to eradicate the group date back to the 1960s.