The Colombian government announced Wednesday that they won’t suspend the Interpol arrest order against National Liberation Army (ELN) leader Nicolas Rodriguez, who was designated as chief peace negotiator by the rebel group.
Colombia’s high commissioner for peace Miguel Ceballos made the announcement after the ELN designated Rodriguez, also known as ‘Gabino,’ as its negotiator for peace talks with the government.
“Even though the ELN names him a negotiator, the situation of ‘Gabino’ will change if the president of the Republic asks the prosecutor and judges to suspend the arrest orders,” Ceballos said in an interview with Blu Radio. “It’s not enough to name him negotiator. That won’t automatically change his legal situation.”
The ELN announced Rodriguez’s new role Tuesday after Interpol issued an international arrest order against him in early October. Colombia’s attorney general is accusing the insurgent leader of homicide and illegal recruitment.
Ceballos thinks the decision to name Rodriguez as a negotiator in the peace dialogues is part of a strategy to suspend his arrest order, as has happened with other ELN delegates.
The peace dialogue between the ELN and the Colombian government has been suspended since President Ivan Duque took office on Aug. 7, and announced they wouldn’t continue until the insurgent group agreed to preconditions. However, the ELN has denounced the lack of government cooperation, and which has even increased military activities instead.
Ceballos highlighted that the talks will remain suspended until the ELN agrees to stop all violent activities and releases all hostages. Duque has also declared that he won’t name negotiators until the demands are met.
Talks between the two parties began in February 2017 in Quito during the government of Juan Manuel Santos, who also achieved the historical deal with the FARC. After the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno decided to stop hosting the dialogues, allegedly due to security problems on the border with other armed groups, they moved to Havana in 2018.
The 1,500-strong ELN was founded in 1964 and it’s believed to be the only rebel group left in Colombia after the agreement with the FARC was signed in 2016. However, armed right-wing paramilitary groups and others claiming to be FARC dissidents remain active.