WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the U.S. would consider removing Colombia’s FARC for the foreign terrorist organizations list if the Marxist guerrilla group “makes peace.”
The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia was added to the State Department’s terror list in 1997 and has held hundreds of hostages over the past few years. U.S. victims include three missionaries murdered in 1999 and three Defense Department contractors held for more than five years before their 2008 rescue.
“While peace negotiations were ongoing, the FARC remained active in carrying out acts of terrorism in 2015,” the State Department noted in its most recent country reports on terrorism. Throughout this time, FARC, “Latin America’s oldest, largest, most violent, and best-equipped terrorist organization,” killed Colombian soldiers, knocked out electricity to millions, forced tankers to dump nearly a quarter million gallons of crude oil, and bombed pipelines.
The FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) pose “the primary terrorist threats in the Western Hemisphere,” the report said.
Hosting the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Partnership Dialogue at the State Department today, Kerry was asked by a member of the Colombian press if the U.S. already began a process to remove FARC from the terror list.
The reporter also noted that “FARC guerrilla members say that while you were in Cuba you gave them hope about releasing Simon Trinidad from jail.”
“Is it absolutely off the table, or is there a possibility that the U.S. is considering releasing Simon Trinidad before time?” the reporter asked.
Trinidad, a high-ranking FARC leader, is currently housed in Colorado’s Supermax prison. Kerry met with FARC representatives during a March visit to Cuba.
Kerry replied that he and the terror group “had a very good meeting when I was in Havana, and I appreciated the opportunity to meet with the leaders of FARC.”
“It was a serious conversation and I think a very constructive conversation, but I don’t know where the interpretation was regarding Simon Trinidad,” he said. “We’ve been very, very clear that he is not part of the peace process, so it is not part of this discussion and part of the process. He is in jail serving time for crimes committed against American contractors and he is in jail under American law.”
Kerry said that “with respect to the terrorist group designation, we consistently review terrorist group designations with respect to any country that has been designated.”
“And I would say this: that if FARC makes peace and FARC lives up to the agreement and keeps the elements of the agreement which are now within the four corners of the document that ultimately, we hope, will be signed — and if they engage in that disarmament and they engage in peaceful activities and they give up the violence and they move to uphold the full measure of this agreement — it would be only natural that within the context of our review process that the United States would take account of the steps that they have taken, which may change or may not change the situation,” Kerry said.
“But that would obviously be very much part of a new Colombia and a new situation with respect to them particularly. So clearly, I would say to you that as part of the natural review process we would be reviewing the new facts.”
Former President Alvaro Uribe is leading the campaign to shoot down the accord, which was approved in June and is likely to be decided by referendum.
FARC operations have killed some quarter million people since the guerrilla group launched in the 1960s.
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