Representatives of the National Liberation Army (ELN) met with the leaders of over 40 Colombian social movements and organizations in Quito, Ecuador on Friday. The organizations asked the insurgent group to resume peace talks with the Colombian government.
Talks between the ELN and the Colombian government started in Feb. 2017 with the support of Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Norway, Venezuela and other countries. In spite of international support, the negotiations were suspended on Jan. 29 after ELN rebels attacked three police stations, causing seven deaths and wounding over 40 persons.
Since then, the Catholic Church, the National Network of Citizen Initiatives for Peace and Against War (Redepaz), and lawmakers have voiced their support for re-establishing the peace talks. However, talks with the ELN and the peace agreement struck with FARC have been used by supporters of former president Alvaro Uribe to attack President Juan Manuel Santos’ government for bowing to rebel pressure.
After the Colombian government suspended the talks, the ELN has reiterated calls to re-establish negotiations and agree on a new ceasefire, but Colombian officials, such as Peace Commissioner Rodrigo Rivera, have dismissed them as "rosy declarations" incompatible with "terrorist facts on the ground."
ELN attacks on security forces and infrastructure were allegedly perpetrated after the ceasefire agreement expired on Jan. 9.
Santos has not expressed a willingness to renew talks as long as ELN attacks continue.
Hours after the meeting between social movements and organizations and the ELN concluded, two highway bridges were destroyed by explosions between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturday. The Colombian armed forces have blamed the ELN for the attack.
Peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government are running out time as presidential elections are scheduled for May, and no front-runner has shown support for continuing the peace talks.