RTL Today – ‘Search for peace’: Colombia to relaunch peace talks with ELN rebels

Colombia’s government on Friday gave the go-ahead to resume peace talks with the country’s largest remaining rebel force, a key election promise that brought leftist President Gustavo Petro to power earlier this week.

On Friday, Colombian government officials met with members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Havana, where they have been based since 2018. Bogota said it officially recognizes the “legitimacy of dialogue…in the search for peace”.

“Both parties agree on the need to relaunch a process of dialogue with facts that show Colombian society and the world that this will is real,” said High Commissioner for Peace Danilo Rueda.

Attending the meeting were officials from Norway and Cuba, guarantors of the talks, as well as representatives of the UN Secretary General and the Colombian Episcopal Conference.

Petro, a former guerrilla who has pledged to continue negotiations with the rebels, says he wants to reach new peace agreements with the ELN and other armed organizations, as well as an end to the “war on drugs”. of the government, which he considers a failure. .

At a press conference in Bogota, Petro said the rapprochement with the ELN is “a hesitant process aimed at examining what was left four years ago and seeing what can be salvaged”.

Previous talks failed to move beyond the exploratory stage after right-wing ex-president Ivan Duque came to power in August 2018.

Following Friday’s announcement in Havana, the Colombian government announced the release of nine people detained by the ELN since July 13 in the department of Arauca, bordering Venezuela. The group had detained 11 people, but two died in captivity.

The ELN, the last recognized guerrilla group in the country after the disarmament of the FARC, expressed its intention to negotiate with Petro shortly after his election.

Hundreds of dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, continued to fight after their comrades laid down their arms as part of a 2016 peace deal that ended more than half a century of armed conflict.

Despite the agreement, Colombia has seen an outbreak of violence due to fighting for territory and resources between dissidents, the rebel group ELN, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.

Amid the escalating violence, Petro Friday appointed a new military command with a clear objective “to significantly increase respect for human rights and public freedoms” as well as reduce violence and crime.

Brandon D. James