WASHINGTON (AP) - The Biden administration formally revoked the terrorist designation of Colombia's former FARC guerrilla army on Tuesday, but newly imposed the designation on commanders and offshoots of the group who have refused to lay down their arms.
Lifting of the terrorist designation for FARC - the commonly used Spanish acronym of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - comes five years after the guerrilla army signed a peace deal aimed at winding down a half-century of political attacks and fighting, assassinations and kidnappings. Colombia says more than 220,000 people died in violence that was fueled by profits from drug trafficking.
The foreign terrorist designation prohibits any foreign financial organizations from providing significant financial services to the targeted entities and makes it a crime to provide any material support to them.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that FARC "no longer exists as a unified organization that engages in terrorism or terrorist activity or has the capability or intent to do so."
The group signed a peace deal in 2016 and in 2018 took part in a U.N.-supervised decommissioning of the last of its accessible weapons.
FARC today is designated as a political party, with a guaranteed share of seats in Colombia's legislature.
The United States has been pressed to lift the terrorist designation. Keeping the former guerrillas on the list prevented U.S. agencies and their contractors from aiding development projects that include former fighters in rural Colombia, such as efforts to remove landmines or replace illegal crops like coca leaf.
In his statement, Blinken said the revocation does not waive the United States' option to prosecute any former FARC leaders for alleged drug-trafficking or other crimes, or negate the finding of Colombia's war-crimes panel that FARC commanders committed crimes against humanity.
Instead, the move will allow the United States "to better support implementation of the 2016 accord, including by working with demobilized combatants," Blinken said.
The FARC holdouts newly designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations and terrorists are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army and Segunda Marquetalia, and the men the U.S. identified as their leaders - Luciano Marin Arango, Hernan Dario Velasquez Saldarriaga, Henry Castellanos Garzon, Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernandez, Miguel Santanilla Botache and Euclides Espana Caicedo,
The groups, which either refused to demobilize or returned to violence, have carried out armed attacks and political killings and kidnappings since the peace deal, the United States said.