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The U.S. has lifted the terrorist label on Colombia's FARC


Five years after a peace agreement in Colombia, the United States has taken the rebel group FARC off a terrorism blacklist. The move is meant to give the U.S. more flexibility in supporting the peace process. Critics argue it could embolden narco terrorists. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as it's known, was formally dissolved after the 2016 peace agreement. So Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols says the U.S. is taking it off the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

BRIAN NICHOLS: The delisting recognizes the reality on the ground that the original FARC, if you will, which targeted me when I served in Colombia - so I have no love for them, but they have participated in the peace process since 2016.

KELEMEN: And while FARC is getting off that list, Nichols told senators at a hearing on Capitol Hill, two rebel groups that emerged from the FARC have been added to the U.S. blacklist.

NICHOLS: The FARC-EP and the Segunda Marquetalia have carried out continued terrorist activities, attacked individuals, carried out bombings, participated in drug trafficking. And we want to focus on those who are currently carrying out those illicit activities.

KELEMEN: The idea is that the U.S. can now offer direct support to those groups that have demobilized and punish those who haven't. But Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, argues that this is not what Colombia wanted.

MARCO RUBIO: They didn't want the delisting. What they wanted was, to the extent that you're going to provide assistance to these people who abandoned the guerrilla fight, laid down their weapons, become politically engaged, we want you to run that assistance through the democratically elected government of Colombia, not unilaterally.

KELEMEN: Colombia's Embassy in Washington wouldn't comment on that but said it saw the decision to add two groups to the terrorism list as a positive step. The State Department says that the U.S. will still be able to bring narco trafficking charges against former FARC leaders. The White House sent a top official to Miami this week to explain all of this and smooth over concerns among Colombian Americans. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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