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News > Latin America

Official ELN and Colombia Peace Talks to Start Feb. 7 in Quito

  • Ecuador's Foreign Minister welcomed the announcement and said that peace in Colombia meant peace for all Latin America.

    Ecuador's Foreign Minister welcomed the announcement and said that peace in Colombia meant peace for all Latin America. | Photo: Twitter / @CancilleriaEc

Published 18 January 2017
Opinion

The ELN will release Odi Sanchez Montes de Oca on Feb. 2, while the government will pardon two ELN members currently in prison on the same day.

The peace delegations of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army, ELN, announced Wednesday that they agreed to start the official public phase of peace negotiations on Feb. 7 — one day earlier than previously announced by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

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In a joint communique read at a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, where the peace talks will take place, they added that the ELN will release Odi Sanchez Montes de Oca on Feb. 2, while the government will pardon two ELN members currently in prison on the same day.

“We hope that this peace deal will be useful for peace in Colombia and that Ecuador's fraternal people will stop being affected by the consequences of the war,” said ELN leader Pablo Beltran.

Founded in 1964 and inspired by the Cuban revolution and its iconic leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the ELN is smaller and less well-known than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which consolidated in a different part of the country also in 1964.

FARC leaders and many analysts have insisted that Colombia will only be capable of building stable and lasting peace if an end-of-conflict deal is also reached with the ELN.

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The ELN has commended the government and the FARC on the historic peace deal, celebrating it as an important step toward peace, but also stressing that a peace process with its own ranks will be marked by key "sovereign" differences. In particular, ELN leaders have stressed the importance of the democratic participation of the Colombian people, especially marginalized groups. Like the FARC, the ELN has attempted peace talks with past governments to no avail.

The talks will cover six major points, already agreed to in preliminary negotiations, which are: the participation of civil society in the peacebuilding process; democracy for peace; transformation for peace, victims; ending the conflict; and implementation of the agreements. The roadmap overlaps considerably with the cornerstones of the agreement between the government and the FARC, highlighting the root causes of inequality underlying the conflict.

Colombia’s five-decade armed conflict has claimed some 260,000 lives and displaced at least 7 million people. Estimates suggest that right-wing paramilitaries are responsible for up to 80 percent of the violence and human rights abuses that took place during the 52 years of conflict.

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