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News > Latin America

Colombia's ELN Rebels Head Towards Key Peace Deals with Govt

  • Agreements between ELN rebels and the government are set to be revealed at the end of the first round of talks on April 7.

    Agreements between ELN rebels and the government are set to be revealed at the end of the first round of talks on April 7. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 April 2017
Opinion

The rebel group and the Colombian government are both confident about the future direction of the peace negotiations.

Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the country’s second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army or ELN continue to make progress including agreements over land mine use and preventing violence against human rights leaders in the country.

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Chief negotiator for the ELN, Pablo Beltran, said that the guerilla group hoped hoped to make an announcement about a landmine removal deal on April 7— the date set for the end of the first round of talks. The ELN and the Colombian government are both “looking for ways to reduce the intensity of the conflict,” Beltran told Caracol Radio.

The guerilla leader said that the next round of peace talks will have a humanitarian focus as well as the participation of civil society. “A first humanitarian agreement would be how stop the political genocide that is taking place against the alternative social leaders in Colombia and a second agreement would have to do with that of retentions.”

The ELN is thought to have around 1,500 active members and has been fighting since 1964. The ELN is the second largest militant group in the country behind the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who are currently slowly implementing their peace accords with the government.  

The ELN has been in peace negotiations with the Colombian government in Quito, Ecuador, since February. Beltran thanked Ecuador for its support of the peace process and was confident of continuing support from the Ecuadorean government despite the outcome of tomorrow’s presidential election.

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While formal peace with the FARC was reached in November, and both sides appear confident that progress in being made with the ELN’s peace aspirations, violence is still raging in many parts of Colombia, particularly as  smaller right-wing paramilitary groups look to exploit previous power vacuums, where Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and human rights defenders have been frequently at risk.

The Gaitanistas Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, also commonly known as “Los Urabeños, has recently attacked  ELN strongholds, which has lead to the displacement of local communities and civilian deaths.

“Military activity continues … we have every military force after us, aerial bombardments, paramilitaries,” Beltran said.

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