Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday downplayed Colombian allegations that the FARC has active cells in the country.
Harper — accompanied by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for a press conference — did not deny reports by Colombian broadcaster RCN that the guerrillas were active in Canada, but Harper said “we don’t believe FARC presents a major threat to Canada, but obviously we monitor the activities of any group that is listed.”
“FARC is a listed terrorist organization. In Canada, all such organizations are carefully monitored by our security apparatus,” the Canadian PM added.
Shifting towards a pending free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia, Harper stated that a free-trade deal with Colombia would open up legitimate economic alternatives to the drug trade.
“Drug traffickers will trade with or without a free-trade agreement. We
need a free-trade agreement to make sure that we open up other economic
opportunities to draw economic activity away from the drug trade,”
The free trade agreement with Colombia is fiercely opposed by Canada’s opposition and human rights NGOs, which caused serious irritation with Uribe when opposition Members of Parliament criticized Colombia’s human rights record.