CARACAS (AP) — The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army guerrilla announced Tuesday that after the first week of November they will resume peace talks after more than four years of suspension.
The announcement was made by Iván Danilo Rueda, High Commissioner for Peace on behalf of the Colombian government; Eliécer Chamorro, alias “Antonio García”, the first commander of the rebel group, and Israel Ramírez Pineda, the second commander, known by the alias “Pablo Beltrán”.RELATED
In statements to the press, they added that the venue for the dialogues will rotate and that the first one is yet to be defined.
“We think that on this occasion the new political circumstances in Colombia have made it possible to restart the talks,” alias “Antonio García” assured the press.
In turn, he thanked the willingness of countries such as Chile and Spain to be guarantors or venues for the negotiations, but pointed out that for the time being they will continue with Venezuela, Cuba and Norway.
The announcement was made from Caracas, where representatives of the ELN arrived in the last few hours from Cuba, the former seat of the negotiations, after the Colombian government lifted the arrest warrants against the insurgents.
Rueda, as a spokesman for Colombia, assured that the ELN has shown “elements of deep trust” such as the release of some hostages since August. He also assured that there is “evidence” -without showing it- of the decrease in their violent actions in various territories where they operate.
There is still no bilateral ceasefire agreement with the ELN, Rueda detailed and explained that the process is in a “confidence-building” phase and if it comes to pass, it would be agreed after the negotiating table is installed.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the decision of the ELN and Colombia and urged them to take advantage of this opportunity to end a deadly conflict.
“I am confident that Colombians can demonstrate once again that even the most entrenched conflicts can be resolved through dialogue,” said the Secretary General’s spokeswoman, Stéphane Dujarric.
The act in the Venezuelan capital took place three weeks after Maduro accepted the offer of Colombian President Gustavo Petro to be the guarantor country in the renewed dialogues with the ELN.
The invitation from Petro – the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia – came shortly after diplomatic relations with the Maduro government were restored after three years of rupture.
The ELN was born in 1964 as an anti-imperialist political project inspired by the Cuban revolution.
The guerrillas and the Colombian government will reinstate the talks table with their respective delegations, starting from the progress of the talks that had begun during the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) in Quito and that were later transferred to Cuba.
In September 2018, the government of Iván Duque (2018-2022) suspended them and made their resumption conditional on the ELN releasing the hostages it had in its power and stopping the attacks. In January 2019, the negotiation was definitively closed when the ELN attacked a police school in Bogotá, causing the death of 22 people.
The parties did not sit down at the table again. Duque asked Cuba to capture the ELN leaders so that they could respond in Colombia for their crimes, which generated diplomatic tension. Havana refused, relying on the protocol in the event of a break in the negotiation signed by the Colombian government itself.
Alias ”Antonio García” assured that restarting the talks is “returning to a path of trust and security” and stressed that the agreements that a government or a State makes with an insurgent movement “must be respected.”
The parties decided to resume the agenda of the negotiations that they agreed on in the past and that includes the participation of citizens, plans to make transformations in the country that help, for example, to overcome poverty, the recognition of the victims and the end of conflict, understood as the transition from guerrilla to legality.
Frank Pearl, the former head of government negotiations when the talks with the ELN began in the Santos government, assured The Associated Press that it is a wise move to resume the talks from the point where they were suspended because “having the agenda defined already indicates the course of the talks” and there is a clear focus with the ELN.
Left-wing senator Iván Cepeda, who accompanied the government in the Caracas announcement, assured the AP that one of the first tasks in restarting the dialogue will be to develop a “model that involves society in a leading way,” in what both parties agree.
Alias ”Antonio García” explained to the press that for them the search for peace does not only involve laying down arms but also “attacking the causes” that gave rise to the armed conflict in Colombia, such as inequality and the weaknesses of democracy. .
The resumption of the peace talks with the ELN is part of a larger project of the Petro government called “total peace” with which it seeks to sign agreements or treaties of submission to justice, in exchange for benefits, with armed groups, gangs drug traffickers and dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who continued to commit crimes after the historic peace agreement signed in 2016 with the Colombian State.
Pearl, who was also part of the negotiation with the FARC, assured that both guerrillas have marked differences, in their origin, structure and ideology. He explained that the FARC had a pyramidal command and their power was in the number of men and women in arms, while the ELN is a group in which not all are armed whose strategy is to go unnoticed to operate and respond to a Central Command. .
Maduro received Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva on Tuesday night at the government palace, where they talked for more than two hours. They did not give any statement at the end.
Suárez reported from Bucaramanga, Colombia.