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U.S. removes terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC

Former FARC combatants take part in a commemorative event in Medellín, Colombia, on Nov. 24 marking five years since the signing of the peace agreement. (Luis Eduardo Noriega/EPA-EFE)
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BOGOTA — The Biden administration has removed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia from the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations in an effort to support the country’s peace process five years after the end of its decades-long conflict, officials said Tuesday.

The move was hailed by many in Colombia as a necessary and logical step that will allow the United States to work on key peace-building programs involving former combatants from the now-demobilized group, known as FARC. But it was blasted by several U.S. politicians who accused the Biden administration of siding with a leftist rebel group that terrorized Colombia with kidnappings, bombings and other attacks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the FARC “no longer exists as a unified organization that engages in terrorism or terrorist activity or has the capability or intent to do so.” But he announced that the State Department would be adding terrorist designations for two splinter groups, and their respective leaders, that abandoned the country’s 2016 peace deal and refused to demobilize.

The list of foreign terrorist organizations will now include Segunda Marquetalia, a group founded by former FARC commander Luciano Marín Arango, alias Iván Márquez, and accused of taking part in kidnappings of government employees and killings of community leaders. It will also name FARC-EP, led by Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernández, alias Iván Mordisco, and Miguel Santanilla Botache, alias Gentil Duarte. The group is “responsible for the vast majority of the armed attacks attributed to FARC dissident elements since 2019,” according to the State Department.

The decision to remove the designation of the demobilized FARC will not impact U.S. drug trafficking charges against former leaders, the State Department said, nor will it “remove the stain” of the country’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which has charged former FARC commanders with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

U.S. plans to lift terrorist designation from former Colombian guerrilla group

“Today’s revocation of FARC’s terrorist designations is a credit to the 2016 Peace Accord with the Colombian government,” Blinken said in a tweet. “Our new designations of two new terrorist groups will continue to isolate those who engage in terrorism at the expense of the Colombian people.”

Colombian President Iván Duque, who has been criticized for his slow implementation of the peace deal, said Tuesday that although the administration respects and understands the move, “we would have preferred another decision.”

“But knowing that, today we are concentrated on confronting these dissidents, confronting these groups,” he said in a news conference.

The decision, which was made public last week, drew criticism from U.S. politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and some Democrats in Florida.

“Colombia has endured decades of pain and suffering because of the vicious terrorist attacks spearheaded by the FARC,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Biden Administration’s decision to remove the FARC from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list risks emboldening narcoterrorists and the regimes that sponsor them throughout our region.”

Marc Gonsalves, who was part of a group of American contractors held hostage by the FARC in Colombia, condemned the decision on Twitter.

“In captivity we were tortured, held in cages, & chained by the neck,” Gonsalves wrote. “I’m only 1 from thousands of victims. Delisting FARC as a terror group is absolutely wrong.”

But analysts, advocates and former political leaders in Colombia have described it as a long-overdue decision to support the reintegration of demobilized combatants into society.

Elizabeth Dickinson, a senior analyst for International Crisis Group, said the listing prevented the U.S. Agency for International Development from working on programs that could have benefited former combatants “and had the adverse effect of contributing to stigmatization of ex-combatants.”

“Today, the commitment of ex-combatants to remaining in civilian life is visible across Colombia and deserves the full support of the international community,” she said.

Diana Durán contributed to this report.

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