The Biden administration is ending its designation of the Colombian far-left insurgent group FARC as a terrorist organization.
According to a congressional aide who first spoke to the Associated Press, the State Department intends to remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, from the U.S. federal government’s list of terrorist entities. The designation carries a host of sanctions to impede the capabilities of a terrorist organization.
FARC is largely financed through illegal drug and human trafficking, ransom kidnappings, and extortion of farmers, local businesses and multinational corporations. At the height of the group’s strength, their activities generated some estimated $300 million a year on average for the group, per InSight Crime.
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the U.S. government had informed Congress of an action it intended to take with regards to the narco-terrorist group but did not specify what it was, the Associated Press reported.
For half a century, FARC conducted numerous politically-motivated attacks in Colombia, waging a decades-long guerrilla war that claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people, according to the Washington Post in 2016.
Dead and displaced: the fighting in Colombia has killed more than 220,000 over the past five decades, according to government tallies. Nearly 7 million Colombians have been driven from their homes — the highest number of what the United Nations considers "internally displaced people" (IDPs) in the world. And Colombians will continue to be maimed long after the war ends by land mines, which have killed or injured more than 11,000 people since 1990. That is second-highest number of land mines in the world after Afghanistan.
Rebels in arms: Flush with cocaine profits, by the late 1990s the FARC was at its peak, with nearly 20,000 fighters. It terrorized Colombians with kidnappings, bombings and brazen attacks that came to represent a major threat to the government, controlling as much as one-quarter of Colombian territory. But the FARC's tactics and its criminal reputation earned it little support among the ordinary Colombians on whose behalf it was supposedly fighting. As the state fought back and FARC soldiers grew fearful of increasingly effective military airstrikes, the rebel ranks thinned, with many defecting or deserting. Today the FARC has fewer than 7,000 troops, according to Colombian military intelligence.
The militants signed a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, with a promise to disarm by 2018. A faction of the organization, known as Frente 33, resumed its armed activities in the Catatumbo region of Colombia and Venezuela. The conflict has affected some 300,000 people living in the area.
The AP reports:
Price called the peace deal a "seminal turning point in some ways in the long-running Colombia conflict".
The group is today designated as a political party, with a guaranteed share of seats in Colombia's legislature.
Price noted administration officials were in Bogota a few weeks ago, where they talked with Colombia's president, foreign minister and others on implementing and upholding the peace deal with FARC.
In response to the lifting of the terror designation, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement condemning the Biden administration’s move.
“President Biden's foreign policy long ago veered into inconsistency and incoherence, but he has shown remarkable commitment and purpose in dismantling terrorism sanctions against violent groups that threaten the national security of us and our allies,” said Cruz.
“Biden-Harris officials made it a Week 1 priority to take the Iran-controlled Houthis off the terrorism list, and the Houthis responded by escalating their aggression and further hindering humanitarian assistance,” said Cruz. “Now the administration is taking steps to do the same thing for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The results of such a reckless, ideologically-driven decision will also be the same.”
“The FARC is an organization of Marxist–Leninist narco-terrorists,” Cruz stated. “For decades they have killed, kidnapped, and extorted Colombians. They have murdered and seized American citizens. They continue to pose an acute threat to Colombian security and to American interests across the region.”
“Instead of bolstering our Colombian allies as they battled against the FARC and trying to bring FARC members to justice, the Biden administration is again preparing to abandon our allies and appease terrorists. Removing FARC from the list of terrorism organizations will embolden them to widen their violence and interfere with civilian activities,” he added.
“It is long past time for Congress to take action and restore oversight over this administration's foreign policy, and to signal to our allies that we stand with them and to terrorist groups that they will be held accountable.”