Colombian government and ELN rebels resume peace talks in Havana

Government pledges ‘judicial and political steps’ to enable the resumption of talks with the nation’s last guerrillas, which have been suspended for three years.

The Colombian government and the last remaining guerrilla group have taken steps toward resuming peace talks that were suspended in Cuba three years ago.

President Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla group, has pledged to establish “total peace” in Colombia and has sent a high-level delegation to Cuba this week to meet with representatives of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Colombia’s national peace commissioner, Danilo Rueda, stated on Friday, following a meeting among representatives of both sides in Havana, that the government would take the necessary “judicial and political steps” to facilitate peace talks with the National Liberation Army, also known as the ELN.

He stated that this included the lifting of arrest warrants for ELN negotiators living in exile in Cuba.

Rueda stated in his statement that the ELN shares the same desire for peace as the Colombian government. “It is my hope that they are listening to the many voices from various territories that are calling for a peaceful resolution to this armed conflict.”

The previous government of Colombia and the ELN terminated peace talks in 2019 after the rebels detonated a car bomb at a police academy in Bogotá, killing more than 20 cadets.

In response to this incident, the Colombian government issued arrest warrants for ELN leaders in Cuba who were participating in peace negotiations. Cuba, however, refused to extradite them, arguing that doing so would compromise its neutrality in the conflict and violate diplomatic protocol.

In response, the United States added Cuba to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In an effort to reduce violence in rural areas and bring lasting peace to the 50 million-person nation, Petro has stated that he wishes to initiate peace talks with the remaining armed groups.

The 2016 peace agreement between the government and Colombia’s largest guerrilla army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reduced kidnappings, murders, and forced displacement.

Farc dissidents, drug trafficking organizations, and the ELN are fighting over cocaine smuggling routes, illegal mines, and other abandoned Farc resources in certain regions of the country.

According to Cerac, a think tank that monitors violence in Colombia, criminal groups launched nearly 90 attacks on the police and military in July, killing 13 police officers. This made it one of the most dangerous months in the last two decades for Colombia’s armed forces.

The US Department of State has long designated the ELN, which was founded in 1964, as a foreign terrorist organization. The group is estimated to have 2,500 fighters in Colombia and operates drug trafficking routes, extortion rings, and illegal mines in Venezuela.

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