For nearly a year, Colombia has been winding down the logistical bureaucracy of finalizing its peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yesterday, President Juan Manual Santos took the stage beside FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, better known as “Timochenko,” and formally signed the agreement.
Most presidents from across Latin America — as well as United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and other prominent figures throughout the world — made the trip to Cartagena to witness the historic moment.
And while most of the evening centered around emotional speeches, pomp, and circumstance — acts meant to commemorate the already-realized accomplishment of reaching peace — there are also some tangible benefits coming in.
The European Union suspended FARC from its list of terrorist organizations and is considering an outright removal. As part of the peace deal, the former guerrilla group will now become a political party, presumably with a rebranding effort to try to win favor in a nation where it was the primary belligerent in a conflict that lasted more than a half century, killed at least 260,00 people, and displaced another seven million.
According to an Associated Press report, the European Union taking FARC off its terrorist list is not just a symbolic move. “EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc will remove the guerrilla group from its list of terror groups in a gesture of support for the peace process,” wrote the AP. “That will open the door for Colombia to receive $600 million USD in EU aid for post-conflict refunding.”
The United States, which has already pledged some half a billion dollars in post-conflict funding, including a recently announced extra $36 million for landmine removal, may follow Europe’s lead.
Regarding the potential to remove FARC from the U.S. terrorist group list, John Kerry said that “we clearly are ready to review and make judgments as the facts come in.” From the peace ceremony in Cartagena, the secretary of state added that, “we don’t want to leave people on the list if they don’t belong.”
Kevin Whitaker, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, added some perspective, but little in the way of concrete expectations, late last week in Bogotá. “There are several ways to get oneself off the list of foreign terrorist organizations,” said Whitaker at an economic event hosted by the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce. “Obviously, with a change in circumstances — for example, the signing of the peace agreement — you have to reconsider whether or not the designation is apt.”
The official signing of the accord has also lead to an expansion of the mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) to support the peace process. In continuing work that it began in the country in 2004, it will monitor the ongoing “challenges, risks, and threats to the peace in the post-conflict stage in Colombia,” according to a statement.
OAS officials will establish a permanent presence in the areas that FARC will be vacating. Their goal will be ensuring that human rights are maintained and that economic activity, like farming, is able to continue without new problems arising in locations where there may be a vacuum of power after decades of guerrilla control.
“The OAS will continue to work on this noble task — the building of peace,” said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS. “We will contribute all the lessons learned and the understanding of the Colombian territory we have built during these 12 years. We thank Colombia for its trust. The OAS is and will remain committed to you and to peace.”