Colombian president wants rebels taken off terror list

BOGOTA - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he wants the U.S. to suspend drug warrants against guerrilla commanders and remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia from a list of terrorist groups to help cinch a peace deal with Latin America's oldest leftist insurgency.

See Full Article

Santos' remarks in an interview with The Associated Press come days before he travels to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate 15 years and more than $10 billion in U.S. counterinsurgency and anti-narcotic aid to its closest South American ally.

The high-profile meeting underscores Colombia's historic moment: three-year-old peace talks between the Santos government and the FARC guerrillas are nearing conclusion, with a final deal to end a half-century of bloodshed expected as early as March.

Santos said that when the deal is inked, it would be appropriate for the Obama administration to remove the FARC from a list it's been on for almost two decades alongside such groups as al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

"If they sign it's because we have a timetable for their disarmament and they have committed themselves to lay down their arms and make this transition to legal life. So I would say yes, I hope that they would be eliminated from the terror list," Santos said in the interview Thursday at the presidential palace.

When pressed about how soon after the accord is inked should the FARC be removed from the U.S. list, Santos said the "the shorter the better." A Colombian paramilitary umbrella group had to wait six years after it completely disarmed to be removed.

In the same vein, he said he would like to see the U.S. follow his lead in Colombia and suspend arrest warrants against the FARC's top leadership. U.S. prosecutors in a 2006 indictment accused 50 FARC leaders of supplying half of the world's cocaine, claims that Santos said were exaggerated and in any case out of sync with commitments made at the negotiating table to abandon its involvement in the drug trade and help the government jointly eradicate cocaine crops.

"Any effort by the United States to allow us to apply transitional justice, for example by suspending the arrest warrants, would help us tremendously," he said. "But let's be very clear: if they don't behave, they'll be extradited."

U.S. officials have long insisted that only prosecutors can suspend the warrants.

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on Santos' statements.

Santos, a former defence and finance minister and the scion of the family that founded Colombia's largest newspaper, described Colombia's evolution from near failed state when Plan Colombia began under President Bill Clinton to one of world's fastest growing emerging markets last year with a level of conflict-related violence unseen for decades.

As the country has stabilized, U.S. aid has steadily declined from almost $1 billion a year to about a third of that now. He said with a peace deal, demands on spending will surge as Colombia attempts to build roads, schools and extend the state's reach to what he described as nearly half of the country that has traditionally been forsaken and unproductive economically.

He said he hopes U.S. aid to Colombia, which traditionally has had the support of both Republicans and Democrats, can rise again and plans to discuss future funding with Obama.

"I don't have a magic figure, to tell you this is going to cost x or y, but what we hope is that the United States understands that the peace process is like the cherry on the cake," said Santos, who plans to meet with Republican leaders in Congress during his visit to Washington.

"Colombia is at a tipping point," he said. "If we receive the help that we need, because we are in a difficult situation financially as is all of Latin America, we can take advantage of this new situation."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Philippine forces make gains in city under siege

    World News CBC News
    Philippine forces now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago, authorities said Monday. Only small areas of Marawi are under militants' control after six days of fighting, said Brig. Source
  • Medical journal calls for tighter rules on legal pot to protect youth

    Canada News CBC News
    Marijuana legalization will harm the health of youth unless major changes to the proposed law are made to protect their developing brains, a medical journal editorial says. Dr. Diane Kelsall, interim editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says Bill C-45 fails to safeguard vulnerable youth. Source
  • 4 hostages kidnapped from Canadian mining company in Congo are released

    World News CBC News
    A French man and three Congolese men have been released after being kidnapped in March from a Canadian mining company in eastern Congo in March, Congo's government said Sunday. They were among five workers, including a Tanzanian who had been kidnapped from the Namoya gold mine operated by Canadian company Banro Mining Corp. Source
  • Indigenous man says he was wrongly accused of being drunk, kicked off Greyhound bus

    Canada News CTV News
    An indigenous Manitoba man says he was forced to spend a frigid night wandering along the side of a highway after a Greyhound bus driver accused him of being intoxicated and left him stranded at a gas station. Source
  • N.S. leaders hitting ridings expected to be competitive in Tuesday's vote

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's three major party leaders lobbied for every possible vote Sunday, targeting ridings that are expected to be highly competitive in Tuesday's provincial election. NDP Leader Gary Burrill visited a community food centre in the riding of Dartmouth-North, where candidate Susan Leblanc is expected to mount a stiff challenge to incumbent Liberal cabinet minister Joanne Bernard. Source
  • North Korea fires apparent ballistic missile: South Korea military

    World News Toronto Sun
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. Source
  • Trump eyes White House overhaul, outside lawyers and PR team

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by what he views as his team's inability to contain the burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Source
  • New Westminster schools to have counsellors on hand after student dies of overdose

    Canada News CBC News
    The New Westminster School District in British Columbia says it will have extra staff and counsellors at schools to help students cope with news that a student died of an overdose and another is in hospital. Source
  • PM, Scheer talk Parliament, trade in first call after Conservative race [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — New Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s victory speech was peppered with attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But on Sunday, the two spoke by phone in the aftermath of Scheer’s win, one that now also makes him the official Opposition leader in the House of Commons. Source
  • Trump eyes White House staff overhaul [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering overhauling his White House staff and bringing back top campaign strategists, frustrated by what he views as his team’s inability to contain the burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Source