Colombia’s ELN refute Petro’s claim of ceasefire “agreement”

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Colombia's Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda shakes hands with the ELN's Pablo Beltran in Caracas./Presidencia
Colombia's Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda shakes hands with the ELN's Pablo Beltran in Caracas./Presidencia

The New Year’s Eve announcement by Colombian President Gustavo Petro that the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla will adhere to a bilateral ceasefire has come as a surprise to the peace negotiators of the Marxist organization.

In a statement released Tuesday, senior representatives of this guerrilla contradicted the country’s first leftist leader stating that “ELN only complies with what is discussed and agreed upon at the negotiating table.” President Petro had confirmed on December 31 that ELN, and four other illegal armed groups had agreed to a six-month-long ceasefire to give impetus to the government’s “total peace” agenda.

The other organizations include two FARC dissident groups and paramilitaries of the AGC and United-Self Defense of Sierra Nevada. “A unilateral decree by the Government cannot be accepted as an agreement,” reads the ELN statement. “To discuss the proposal for a bilateral ceasefire, we (ELN) need to examine the terms that would make this agreement possible.”

The written reproach by the 3,000-strong ELN comes weeks before the guerrilla sits down at the negotiating table in Mexico – January 23 – for a second round of talks with the Petro government. Petro had stated that the ceasefire “agreement” would be in effect until June 30, 2023, and “extendable depending on progress in the negotiations.”

A truce with the country’s five largest illegal groups would be monitored by the United Nations’s Verification to Mission to Colombia, the Office of the Ombudsman and Catholic Church.