Juan Manuel Santos on January 10.">
Ecuador's Ministry of External Affairs issued a press release on Thursday urging Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to "initiate the Fifth Cycle of Dialogues for Peace... for the sake of the future of peace for Latin America and the Caribbean."
Peace negotiations between Colombia and the ELN started on Feb. 27, 2017, in Quito, Ecuador, but they were called off by President Santos on Jan. 10 after the Colombian government accused ELN fighters carrying out attacks on oil infrastructure and Colombian security forces.
Since then, the ELN’s Chief Negotiator Pablo Beltran has repeatedly expressed his willingness to resume negotiations arguing the group had respected the ceasefire agreement, which lasted until Jan. 9, even though the Colombian Army was attacking them.
Instead of heeding the call, in February Colombia’s Attorney General's Office issued arrest warrants against 21 ELN members, including Beltran for alleged forced disappearances, forced displacement, and rebellion.
After the warrants were issued, the ELN announced a unilateral ceasefire between March 9-13 as “gesture of respect” for the Colombian voters who will vote on March 11 in Colombia’s legislative elections. Three days before the ceasefire came into effect the Colombian Army bombed an ELN camp in Antioquia, killing 10 ELN fighters.
With this background, on March 8 Ecuador reminded both sides they are not alone in pursuing a peaceful solution. "We join our voice to the clamor of the international community, the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, the United Nations and the Colombian people themselves to make the necessary efforts that lead to the de-escalation of the conflict and the cessation of hostilities that affect to the non-combatant population," the press release read.
However, the peace agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has not resulted in less violence. Recent reports show that so far over 200 social leaders have been killed since the agreements were signed in November 2016 as paramilitary groups take over territories previously controlled by the FARC.