The Colombian government, headed by President Ivan Duque, failed to present negotiators during peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) Wednesday. The total absence of official negotiators came after protracted peace negotiatons under the previous government of President Juan Manuel Santos expired and after Duque failed to appoint new negotiators.
Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, said contracting new peace negotiators is "a purely administrative procedure. ... When the necessary conditions are met, the total cessation of criminal activities and the handing over of all hostages, the president will appoint the official spokespersons for the possible negotiating table."
Duque has refused to appoint new negotiators until the guerrillas free all persons held by the group and cease all acts of hostility against the Colombian state.
Manuel Santos, however, engaged the ELN in peace negotiations for 17 months in Ecuador and then Cuba.
Earlier this month, the ELN released nine soldiers it was holding as part of the group's effort to restore peace talks with the Colombian state under the new government.
“The ELN fulfills its word as promised. This liberation is a unilateral humanitarian action,” a member of the group, who goes by the name Comandante Uriel, said in a video.
After having signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, the ELN became the largest active guerrilla group in the South American country. Colombia's civil war has lasted for more than half a century.
The ELN was founded by rebels and a group of Catholic priests, adherents to Liberation Theology. The most notable of that group was Camilo Torres Restrepo, killed in combat against the Colombian army in 1966.
The group currently has approximately 2,000 members.