In mid-April, President Trump had a brief, cordial exchange with two former presidents of Colombia — Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana — at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. After the Miami Herald reported the encounter, critics suggested it might “undermine” the Colombian “peace deal” struck by the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In fact, it’s less a peace agreement than a pathway to dictatorship for a key US ally and to an expansion of drug trafficking here — developments that would pose grave challenges to Trump’s national security agenda and fight against opioid addiction.
Remarkably, this disastrous course will likely be partially financed with nearly half a billion US taxpayer dollars — promised by then-President Barack Obama — unless Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan deny the appropriation to implement the deal.
For 52 years, the Marxist narco-terrorists of FARC have financed their mayhem with the production and export of cocaine and heroin to the United States. FARC has committed an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 murders and ravaged the country. It remains a US-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Uribe and Pastrana each attempted to negotiate a just and stable peace, but FARC’s demands proved too onerous and no agreement was reached.
Santos got a farcical one-sided agreement so damaging to Colombia’s democratic system and FARC’s victims that the people demanded a national referendum. Last October, the deal was voted down.
Circumventing the will of his own people, Santos pushed a revised agreement through the Colombian Congress three weeks later as a way to avoid having to hold a second referendum and risking another defeat.
The terms of the “very bad deal”(for which Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize):
- Drug-trafficking will no longer be a major crime.
- Money-laundering will no longer be a crime.
- Extradition of major narco-terrorists to the United States won’t be permitted.
- All criminal records of FARC members will be erased.
- There will be no punishment for any member of FARC, including its leadership, even if they’ve committed crimes against humanity. But members of the military and national police who’ve received long sentences for events related to the conflict will remain in prison.
- FARC will have the right to establish a third political party, nominate candidates for president and enjoy the protection of a paramilitary “security organization” armed and paid by taxpayers — but under FARC control.
- A special court — half of which will be made up of FARC-appointed judges — will be created outside the constitutional judiciary to investigate and adjudicate all matters related to the conflict.
And what did the FARC concede for the deal? Little beyond pledging to surrender an easily replenished fraction of its weapons and voluntarily reduce the drug acreage it controls but only by a small amount — promises it’s already slow-walking.
As with Obama’s Iran deal, every concession is given to FARC upfront for a promise of future compliance. But taking a page from the Palestinian playbook, FARC split itself into two entities: a) the political FARC, to negotiate and abide by the agreement and participate in politics, and b) the business FARC, which, unbound by the terms and not forced to disarm, would likely continue its illicit drug production and exports.
Santos now effectively controls the three branches of government, the independence and integrity of which have been grossly compromised. Colombia’s democratic system is in danger of steaming toward either a dictatorship controlled by narco-terrorism and radical socialism a la Venezuela or a military takeover likely resulting in bloody chaos.
The situation offers Trump a major opportunity to make good on two key campaign promises: stemming the flow of drugs here and protecting American taxpayers.
Santos desperately wants Obama’s promised $450 million annually to implement the deal — which will include direct distributions to FARC members and government grants of millions of acres of prime agricultural land while providing no compensation to the victims of FARC crimes. Such a gift, whether whole or in part, would be interpreted as US support for the agreement.
When Santos arrives in Washington this month, Trump should make clear that neither the appropriation nor approval for the deal will be forthcoming.
The FARC agreement needs significant changes in order to preserve democracy in Colombia. The Colombian people desire peace, but its price should not be the handover of the government to the narco-terrorists or military — with a substantial assist in blood money from US taxpayers.
Monica Crowley is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.