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US to revoke its designation of Colombia’s FARC as a terrorist group

The Biden administration will revise the US list of foreign terrorist organisations to reflect the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement that ended Colombia’s civil war by removing the leftist rebel group known as FARC

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that US officials plan to remove Farc — an acronym for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) — from the State Department terrorist group list it has been on for nearly a quarter of a century, while adding two splinter groups known as La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP.

The two splinter groups have rejected the peace agreement and continued to take up arms against the Colombian government in which many of their former FARC colleagues currently serve.

Speaking at the department’s daily briefing, spokesperson Ned Price said officials “have started the process of consulting with Congress on actions that we are taking with regards to the FARC”, but would not say whether those actions included removing the group from the terrorist organisations list.

But developments in Colombian politics that have occurred since the US-brokered peace agreement have combined with US law to create wrinkles in Washington’s attempts to aid Bogota.

According to Reuters, Biden administration officials and Colombian officials agree that keeping FARC on the terrorist blacklist complicates provision of US aid to one of its closest South American allies because so many FARC members have laid down their arms and become involved in Colombia’s politics and economy.

US law prohibits providing aid to, or doing business with, any entity in which FARC members are involved.

While some Republican politicians have criticised the decision as evidence that Mr Biden is making allies of so-called “communists”, the US government has made a practice of removing terrorist groups from the blacklist when they cease hostilities as part of a peace deal. Not doing so can cause diplomatic headaches when onetime members of designated terrorist groups become involved in high-level international politics. 

One such group, the African National Congress, became the ruling party of South Africa after the 1994 elections which marked the end of Apartheid rule under a White minority government.

But the ANC, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organisation in 1988 during the administration of then-President Ronald Reagan, remained on the official government blacklist until it was removed by an act of Congress in 2008.

Because the ANC remained on the blacklist until then, senior South African politicians who’d been part of the ANC had to receive special dispensation to enter the US. This included 1993 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela, who served as South Africa’s president from 1994 to 1999.