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Rubio Questions Senior State Department Official Following Delisting of the FARC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke during a full Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the hearing, Rubio questioned Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols about the Biden Administration’s decision to delist the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list. Last week, Rubio stated “the Biden Administration’s decision to remove the FARC from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list risks emboldening narcoterrorists and the regimes that sponsor them throughout our region.”
Video of Rubio’s remarks can be found here and a full transcript is below.
Rubio is the Ranking Members of the Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
Rubio: Secretary Nichols, I think you would agree that supporting democracy begins by supporting the existing democracies, to do nothing that undermines their strength or legitimacy. You would agree with that?
Rubio: OK. And you would also agree, I believe, that Colombia is one of the strongest, most stable democracies, and one of our best partners and allies in the region. That’s a correct statement?
Rubio: Did we consult with them before we delisted the FARC?
Rubio: What was their take on it?
Nichols: This has been part of the implementation of the 2016 agreement between the government and the FARC, the Peace Accord. And from Colombia’s standpoint, the key element is for us to be able to deliver assistance in areas where the FARC has demobilized.
Rubio: But were they in favor or against the delisting?
Nichols: I don’t want to characterize their position. They were certainly in favor of us providing assistance for those who have demobilized and are participating in the Peace Process. They are also in favor of us listing FARC EP and the Segunda Marquetalia.
Rubio: So for us, in terms of providing assistance to those who have demobilized and become politically engaged, is it not true that they wanted that assistance to be channeled through the Colombian government?
Nichols: We have a robust partnership with Colombia on these issues and we work hand-in-hand with them. It’s a great partnership.
Rubio: I understand, but isn’t it true that…they didn’t want a delisting? What they wanted was, ‘to the extent that you’re going to provide assistance to these people who have 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?’
Nichols: So certainly they, and many governments with whom we partner, have an interest in us providing direct budgetary support. But I think it’s important for us to be able to implement the programs that the Congress authorizes, that USAID and other implementing agencies like INL be able to directly carry out the programming.
Rubio: Even if carrying it out directly goes against the wishes of the democratically-elected partner of that home country?
Nichols: Everything we do with our partners in Colombia is negotiated and agreed with the government of Colombia.
Rubio: So you’re saying they agreed to this? They agreed to this agreement? This is what they wanted to see happen? 100 percent?
Nichols: They signed an agreement on assistance programs, whether it’s with USAID or with INL.
Rubio: No, no. Did they agree with the delisting and the direct delivery of aid to former FARC or FARC elements?
Nichols: I did not personally participate in that conversation, so I don’t want to —
Rubio: Who did? Is that [a National Security Council] process? Was the NSC lead on this?
Nichols: So our Ambassador in Bogotá was crucial in this process. Again, I don’t want to give the impression that there’s any daylight between the government of Colombia and the United States there; they are superb partners.
Rubio: OK, I think we’ll hear from them on it. I can tell you, I know what their opinion on it is. They weren’t in favor of the delisting and they wanted, to the extent aid [was] to be provided to these people, to be provided through them, and not directly.
But let me ask this — talk about the reality on the ground. So after this so-called “peace process,” there.. was this FARC. The people who laid down their arms and became politically engaged have done so through a political party called Comunes. Correct?
Rubio: That group is not sanctioned. They’re not on any list of foreign terrorist organization[s], right? And then the group that did not lay down their arms have gone on to become these dissident groups, FARC dissidents and others. Correct?
Rubio: OK. We’ve sanctioned the group that became the dissidents; we’ve added them to the list. And the people that are in the political party are no longer sanctioned because they’re no longer part of FARC, they’re now part of the political process. So who exactly are we delisting? What was the purpose of doing this?
If the argument is that the Peace Process has dismantled the FARC, and now people that were in the FARC are either: A. Dissidents, who are covered under the new listing, or B. Members of a political party who are not part of any sanction list, why did we do this? Who’s not getting money as a result of this? Who is not a dissident group, who is not part of Comunes, and needs money from the United States, that used to be or is a part of the FARC?
Nichols: In order to carry out the development programming with former members of the FARC, from a legal standpoint, delisting them was required.
Rubio: So then wouldn’t it have been easier to just say, ‘If you’ve abandoned the FARC and now join Comunes, you’re no longer considered a former [member of the FARC]?’ Wouldn’t that have been easier to do, and more straightforward, and less confusing, than delisting an entire group? Because a new group could start up tomorrow and say, ‘We’re the FARC,’ Right? The dissident group could rename themselves and, theoretically, not be covered by this.
Nichols: The nomenclature is covered in the way that we address this. We name specific leaders of the FARC EP and Segunda Marquetalia, their structures, sub-fronts, organizations, all their names.
Rubio: We could have done the same by just naming the political party, as opposed to creating all this anxiety and, frankly, going against the wishes of our democratically-elected allies in Colombia.