Monday, September 26, 2016

US, EU to Remove Terrorism Status from FARC?

United States (US) and European Union  (EU) diplomats have given indications that the FARC might be rescinded of its status as a terrorist group for both entities as Colombia’s president and the leader of the rebels will soon sign a historic peace agreement.

EU Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia Eamon Gilmore confirmed that the bloc will soon commence actions to eliminate the status of the FARC as a terrorist organization and claimed it was an action “that had been considered for a long time.”

“The peace process is on its journey. We hope the process ends with the signing of the (peace) agreement,” affirmed Gilmore in an interview earlier to Colombian media outlet RCN.

The comprehensive pact gives the FARC a 180-day deadline to disarm and move to disarmament zones monitored by the United Nations. A judicial mechanism was established in order to place rebels on trial for crimes against humanity, torture, and rape, while the guerillas must also provide reparations to victims of an armed conflict that over a fifty-two year period claimed an estimated 260,000 lives and led to seven million displaced people.

As part of the accord, the rebels may be allowed to form their own political party, will receive aid to return into civil society, and cannot be put on trial for "political crimes". 

US Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, listed numerous conditions the guerillas must meet as part of the peace deal before they’re removed from the terrorist blacklist.

“If they lay down their arms, stay in their demobilization zones (and) reinsert themselves into society. These are aspects we will put into consideration,” for possible elimination of terrorist status, Kerry asserted.

Kerry could not guarantee a “revision” of the FARC as a terrorist group, a designation placed on the militants since 1997 that freezes all their assets and prevents US companies from dealing with them.  But the top diplomat did confirm that Colombia is a “strong ally” for the US following “years” of aid to “facilitate negotiations” between the Colombian government and the FARC.

The agreement was finalized last month as the culmination of nearly four years of negotiations that were sometimes tense and occasionally appeared to be broken off altogether. The US did not directly intervene in the discussions, per se. But the White House did send an official envoy, Bernard Aronson, while Kerry last March met with government and guerilla envoys last March to push for stronger progress in the peace process.

Kerry’s comments come days after the US Ambassador to Colombia alluded to a potential removal of the FARC, the oldest guerilla group of the Americas until today, from the terrorism list.

“There are ways to be removed from the list. It is something we must consider based on the signing of the peace accords,” mentioned Kevin Whitaker last week.

The close of one of the most violent chapters in Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict did not go unnoticed by US President Barack Obama who referred to the peace agreement as an "historic achievement."

“I’m very proud (of the Santos administration),” Obama said though he also acknowledged the obstacles after the pact is signed.

Indeed, one of the main obstacles may be to convince the Colombian populace that the deal will lower violence, bring economic prosperity, and allow public resources to be used for social programs and to combat corruption. Recent polls found that most voters would easily approve the pact as part of a plebiscite on October 2nd. Additionally, the agreement runs with the support of world leaders including from heads of state of all political persuasions in the Americas as well as the chiefs of global bodies including the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. As mentioned by the conservative president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski:
“I see great support from Latin America. Most of the region's Presidents are here (in Colombia for the peace deal signing). Brazil's [President] is the one that's missing and must be attending urgent tasks. However, his Foreign Affairs Minister is here [...]. Raul Castro, Michelle Bachelet, Argentina's [President] and myself are here. It is a considerable group.”
Nevertheless, a vocal minority of activists and politicos led by former president Alvaro Uribe have campaigned to defeat the plebiscite and blasted the agreement. Uribe earlier this month penned a letter to the two main candidates in the U.S. presidential election – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – and urged them both to oppose the pact.

YouTube Source – euronews 

Online Sources (English) – Reuters, Colombia Reports,, BBC News, andina

Online Sources (Spanish) – RCN Radio, Noticias Caracol

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