August 1st marks a major milestone for Colombia’s peace process with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group: The “zonas veredales” — the location of thousands of demobilized guerrillas — will be transformed into centers for reintegration services. It also marks an important deadline for the FARC to give a full accounting of the assets accumulated from decades of criminal activity, including the production and transit of illegal drugs, human trafficking, extortion, and illegal mining and logging.
When the FARC was at its peak of power and influence, the guerrilla group was estimated to make as much as $3.5 billion a year. One analysis by the Colombian government estimated the FARC’s accumulated assets to be worth $10.5 billion in 2012. FARC assets include weapons, machinery, land, drug manufacturing materials, and cash that has been laundered and hidden in Colombia and around the world.
Under the peace accord, the FARC’s illicit funds must be declared and surrendered to the government to be used to compensate the millions of victims of the 60-year conflict. However, the FARC has been inconsistent, evasive, and dismissive about the status of its assets, with its leaders often claiming the guerrilla group was destitute and on other occasions publicly declaring their intent to use their assets to fund the FARC’s political party, a direct violation of the accord.
Colombia’s Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez has publicly advised the FARC that he has compiled evidence of hundreds of millions of dollars in FARC assets and identified the offshore shell companies and front men hiding their money.
The status of the FARC’s financial assets has been a major cause of concern for many that worry the narco-money will be used to undermine Colombian institutions and unfairly benefit the new FARC political party. A recent AEI report by a working group of experts highlights the threat that hidden FARC funds and Colombia’s other criminal groups pose to both peace and democratic stability.
Unless the FARC makes a full and immediate accounting of its resources as required by the peace accord, many Colombians will never accept it as a legitimate political party that respects the rule of law and democratic institutions. If the guerrilla leaders continue to obfuscate and if the Colombian government fails to press for full compliance, the credibility of the parties and the viability of the agreement as a whole will be gravely impacted.
To ensure peace, the Colombian government and the United States should mount an international campaign to discover and confiscate any FARC assets, which can then be used for the good of all Colombians rather than misused by people whose word can’t be trusted in peace or in politics. …