Move comes days after the group and the Colombian government marked the five-year anniversary of a peace accord.
The United States revoked its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a “foreign terrorist organisation”, allowing US officials to work with members of the group as they shift into political life.
The move, which Congress had been notified of earlier in November, comes days after the Marxist rebels and Colombia’s government celebrated the five-year anniversary of a peace deal, which ended five decades of violence. In 2018, the group took part in a United Nations-supervised decommissioning of the last of its accessible weapons.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said removing the “terrorist” designation will make it easier for the US to support the implementation of the accord.
“The decision to revoke the designation does not change the posture with regards to any charges or potential charges in the United States against former leaders of the FARC, including for narcotrafficking,” he said.
Today’s revocation of FARC’s terrorist designations is a credit to the 2016 Peace Accord with the Colombian government. Our new designations of two new terrorist groups will continue to isolate those who engage in terrorism at the expense of the Colombian people.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) November 30, 2021
The FARC group, which fought for five decades in an era of devastating political violence in Colombia – carrying out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and attacks in the name of redistributing wealth to Colombia’s poor – has been designated a political party in the wake of the peace agreement.
The group is guaranteed a share of seats in Colombia’s legislature. Observers increasingly warned that failure to lift the US designation would hobble Washington’s ability to support programmes involving former FARC fighters, including removing land mines and replacing illegal crops.
Lifting the label also allows US agencies to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilised FARC soldiers are located.
Blinken said former FARC rebels who rejected the peace agreement, and FARC splinter groups that continue to use the group’s name, would remain under the designation.
“The designation of FARC-EP and Segunda Marquetalia is directed at those who refused to demobilise and those who are engaged in terrorist activity,” Blinken said, referring to two offshoot groups that continue to operate.
According to the Indepaz research institute, some 90 armed groups with some 10,000 members remain active in the country.
A US official previously told reporters that keeping those groups on the list “allows us to target the full tools of the US government and law enforcement to go after those individuals who did not sign the agreement and remain active in terrorist activities”.