Colombia moves to restart peace talks with ELN

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ELN/Prensa

The senior commander of the National Liberation Army guerrilla – Ejercito Liberación Nacional – Eliecer Hermelindo Chamorro, known by his war alias ‘Antonio García’ declared from Cuba that the recent visit by Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, and delegation of the new Gustavo Petro government, marked “an important step towards the resumption of the peace process”.

Foreign Minister Leyva’s first visit to the communist island since Petro was inaugurated on August 7 looks to jump-start the peace process with Colombia’s last remaining Marxist guerrilla within the framework of the leftist President’s objective to achieve “total peace” in the country. García highlighted in his social media message that the visit also recognizes the role of Cuba (in the peace process), lacerated by the clumsiness of Duque.”

Former President Duque issued extradition orders for the ELN’s 10 peace negotiators after talks ended in 2019 when the guerrilla claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed 21 cadets at General Santander Police Academy in Bogotá. When the Cuban government did not recognize Colombia’s extradition orders, former Defense Minister Diego Molano asked Interpol to place the ELN peace negotiators on their Red List of most wanted criminals.

Colombia’s recently-designated Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda confirmed that the ELN’s Central Command (COSE) expressed interest in resuming talks by “taking the necessary steps” and process based on facts “that will show Colombian society, and the world, that the process is real.”

Prior to the meeting with the ELN’s García, Foreign Minister Leyva, Senator Iván Cepeda and Commissioner Rueda met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. “I ratified to all the participants in the meeting the invariable commitment of Cuba and the unwavering will to continue contributing to the achievement of the desired peace for Colombia,” expressed Díaz-Canel on Twitter. “Cuba and Norway are getting ready to assist the parties in the search for a solution to the conflict,” stated Norway’s Foreign Ministry, and one of the guarantor nations to the peace process.

The 3,000-strong ELN has recruited an estimated 700 fighters since the end of the peace talks with the Duque administration. In 2018, Cuba forged a bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and ELN, considered one of the few breakthrough contributions of the island nation. After failing to handover the ELN’s Central Command, the United States under President Donald Trump, placed Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Peace Commissioner Rueda also noted from Havana that the government of Gustavo Petro would lift the arrest warrants against ELN’s negotiators to respect the protocols established during the government of President Juan Manuel Santos.