The government of Colombia has begun bringing demobilizing FARC guerrillas into the formal banking system, but international sanctions on FARC leaders could complicate this important step in the process of reintegrating former fighters into society.
On July 21, Caracol Radio reported that Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo announced that the government had begun the process of paying stipends to demobilized members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).
The stipends are being paid as part of a peace deal signed last year. Those ex-guerrilla members who choose to participate in this process will receive a salary corresponding to 90 percent of the legal minimum wage (currently about $215 per month) and could gain access to other financial services, such as loans and savings accounts.
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While most of the FARC's nearly 7,400 ex-combatants should be able to access banking services, Colombia's Financial Superintendency has ruled out the establishment of a special regulation that would allow access for the roughly 90 to 150 demobilizing rebels who have been named to the "Kingpin List" maintained by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control's (OFAC).
Among the highest-ranking ex-guerrillas included in the list -- which is used to criminalize financial dealings with suspected drug traffickers -- are Luciano Marín Arango, alias "Iván Márquez"; Félix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro, alias "Pastor Alape"; and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias "Timochenko," as well as other former top leaders and commanders.
InSight Crime Analysis
One of the key points going forward for Colombia in the implementation of the peace accords will be its ability to shield its financial system from illicit capital. If the government is unable to do so, the country may find itself in violation of the Basel Accords, a series of international regulations on financial sustainability, which could affect the reputation of Colombian banks and jeopardize the country's investment rating.
Colombia has been implementing a series of normative tools to create an inventory of FARC assets and increase the impact of its asset forfeiture law in order to provide banks with detailed information on the economic and judicial situation of ex-guerrillas and the source of their wealth. According to the Attorney General's Office, over 300 investigators have meticulously studied more than 5.5 million intelligence files, which has resulted in the identification of close to 3,400 assets owned by the group with a value of approximately $365 million.
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OFAC Director John Smith has said that "the goal of the [Kingpin List] sanction is for people to change their behavior and, if that happens, if they leave drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism, then we are not opposed to removing them. Hundreds of people have been removed [from the list], and we want to keep doing that if there is a change in conduct."
In the meantime, and in response to the Financial Superintendency's decision not to establish a workaround for those on the list, the country's banking system is likely to prefer to stick to international regulations to avoid falling afoul of the US sanctions. This could prove to be a serious obstacle to those demobilizing FARC members -- particularly top leaders -- seeking to reintegrate into civilian life.