Representatives of the government of Colombia and the guerrilla group the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) have agreed to resume peace talks after three years, the Associated Press reported.
Just before the elections Colombian President Gustavo Petro, himself a former guerrilla from the Marxist rebel group M-19, also promised to fully implement a peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Petro won the elections in June 2022, becoming the first ever left-wing president of Colombia.
On Aug. 12, in the wake of Petro’s victory, Colombian Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda and representatives of the ELN held a meeting in Havana, Cuba, announcing that they were committed to taking the necessary steps to reactivate the peace process.
After the meeting, Danilo Rueda said that the ELN had showed its desire for dialogue, announced that peace negotiations would be resumed, and stated that certain judicial and political steps would be taken in order for this to happen.
Among these steps it is probable that arrest warrants against ELN negotiators who are currently living in exile in Cuba will be lifted.
“The government has declared that it will take all political and legal measures, within the framework of domestic and international law, for the resumption of negotiations. This includes recognising the legitimacy of the ELN,” said Rueda.
“The administration of newly inaugurated President Gustavo Petro will engage with the ELN delegation and considers them to be legitimate representatives of the rebel group” Rueda added.
The former Colombian government had been in peace talks with the FARC in 2016, but when some of the group returned to armed activity in 2019 and the government responded, killing some of their members, negotiations were cancelled.
The Colombian president at the time, Iván Duque, had arrest warrants issued and demanded the extradition of prominent ELN peace negotiators living in exile in Cuba. Cuba refused to hand them over, stating that it wished to remain neutral in the conflict.
The ELN is Colombia’s only remaining left-wing guerrilla organisation. The group, which advocates Marxism and liberation theology, has been at war with the state since 1964. It still has nearly 3,000 armed members.