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News > Latin America

Colombia Finally Advances Talks with 2nd Largest Guerrilla Army

  • A group of demobilized ELN rebels walks in Cali, Colombia, July 16, 2013.

    A group of demobilized ELN rebels walks in Cali, Colombia, July 16, 2013. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 February 2017

Analysts insist Colombia will only be capable of achieving lasting peace if a deal is also reached with the ELN.

The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army, ELN, will begin the public phase of peace negotiations on Tuesday in Ecuador's capital city of Quito after months of delays in the long-awaited peace process. 

Colombia's Cuban-Inspired Guerrilla Group Follows FARC's Path Toward Peace

As prerequisites to move forward with these talks, the rebels demanded the pardons of two members, Juan Carlos Cuellar and Eduardo Martinez, who will be part of the negotiating process. The government in return demanded the release of former members of Congress Odin Sanchez, held hostage by the ELN for 10 months.

The talks will cover six major points already agreed to in preliminary negotiations: the participation of civil society in the peacebuilding process; democracy for peace; transformation for peace; the rights of victims; ending the conflict; and implementation of the agreements. 

Juan Camilo Restrepo, former minister of agriculture, has been designated as lead negotiator for the government, while Pablo Beltran will be the lead negotiator on behalf of the rebel group.

The ELN, has confirmed its willingness to begin peace talks with the government but stressed that the rebel group would want to see a different process than the one carried out with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which reached a breakthrough deal with the government last year.

Colombia's ELN Rebels Release Key Hostage, Boosting Peace Talks

The talks were initially scheduled to begin on Oct. 27, 2016, but President Juan Manuel Santos unilaterally canceled the meeting just hours before it was set to begin. The first phase of the talks, which paved the way for the negotiations, was private and informal and began more than three years ago.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has said the country will host the talks and play the same role as Cuba did for the talks between the government and the FARC.

Founded in 1964 and inspired by the Cuban revolution and its iconic leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the ELN is smaller and less well-known than the FARC, it currently has between 2,000 and 3,000 active members.

Colombia’s five-decade armed conflict has claimed some 260,000 lives and displaced at least 7 million people. Estimates suggest that right-wing paramilitaries are responsible for up to 80 percent of the violence and human rights abuses that took place during the 52 years of conflict.

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