The Case for Continued US Support to Colombia Peace Process
“WOLA is confident that once he reviews those details, Mr. Tillerson will conclude that the 2016 agreement, which ends 52 years of fighting between Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla group, deserves strong support.”
“[U.S. aid] has become more important than ever, and will directly influence U.S. interests. Last year President Barack Obama proposed, and both Republican-majority houses of Congress approved, at least US$450 million for 2017—but the 2017 foreign aid bill has not yet passed. When it does, this amount must be sustained or exceeded. Cutting it would do real harm to Colombia’s effort to implement the accords in a way that can bring permanent reductions in illegality and illicit drug production. A cut would also lead future Colombians to remember the United States for contributing over US$700 million per year in times of war, then slashing assistance the very moment a peace accord was signed.
Another issue is the approximately sixty outstanding U.S. extradition requests for FARC members, most wanted to face charges of narcotrafficking, a few for kidnapping or killing U.S. citizens in Colombia. If they have abandoned illegal behavior and are contributing to peace, FARC leaders wanted by U.S. courts are not likely to be extradited. This is because, other than by forcing the FARC to surrender through years more fighting, there is no way to convince guerrilla leaders to turn in their weapons only to board a plane to a U.S. prison.
Nonetheless, the moment an ex-FARC leader demonstrably violates the terms of the peace accord—by continuing to traffic drugs, by failing to declare all assets, by failing to provide reparations to victims—the situation changes. If he or she is wanted by U.S. justice, a former guerrilla who violates the accord’s terms could be subject to extradition. However, if an ex-guerrilla is respecting accord commitments, has abandoned criminality, and is working in good faith to reconcile with and restore victims, it would be counterproductive for the U.S. government to press Colombia to extradite that individual.
Colombia’s peace implementation process faces some looming complications and difficulties. But these are not reasons to withdraw or to lessen U.S. support for the peace accords’ implementation. Instead, they are reasons to keep engaging, and to redouble and increase the U.S. commitment to helping cement security and governance gains in Colombia. Even if implementing it will be difficult, the 2016 peace accord is the best available option for guaranteeing stability, strong democratic governance, and reduced drug production in Colombia. It deserves full U.S. backing. Colombia Peace