This Monday, February 13, the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) open a new Dialogue Table in Mexico. Negotiations that are resumed after a moment of tension that resulted from the announcement by the country’s president, Gustavo Petro, of a bilateral ceasefire that the guerrilla group denied. The talks are a crucial part of the leftist’s goal of achieving “total peace” in Colombian territory.
The Government of Gustavo Petro wants to forget the setback with which 2022 ended. The Colombian president announced a bilateral ceasefire with the ELN guerrillas that never existed. A moment of tension that shook his claim to reach a peace agreement with the armed group.
The resumption of the Dialogue Table this Monday, February 13, seeks to open a new chapter and promote Petro’s objective of achieving “total peace” on Colombian soil.
The government peace delegation was confident with this new round of talks. One that will take place in Mexico and that intends, this time, to achieve the long-awaited bilateral ceasefire.
“We are sure that, during the cycle of Peace Dialogues that is beginning, progress will be made on the agreed issues and, at the end, the leadership of the Dialogue Table will be strengthened, the support of the international community and the confidence of Colombian society in the process,” said the Peace Delegation of the Government of Colombia for the talks with the ELN in a statement.
Venezuela, Chile, Brazil and Norway are guarantors of the peace talks. While Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Spain will be accompanying countries of the “second cycle”.
According to Senator Iván Cepeda, who is part of the government’s negotiating team, “the work agenda is clearly outlined, we are going to finish discussing which are the points that make up the peace talks agenda with the ELN and we will present that agenda to the country and the international community.
Caracas, venue for the first round of negotiations
Shortly after the end of 2022, the Colombian government and the ELN managed to complete the first round of peace negotiations in Venezuela. The main announcements that derived from these were the release of hostages and various humanitarian actions.
In a joint statement, the parties assured that it was a “successful” first cycle. At the same time, the will to “adapt to the new context” the points made in 2016 when the guerrillas negotiated with the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos was reiterated. Some that were left unfinished when Santos left power.
Retaking what was agreed was one of Petro’s clear claims when he became president in mid-2022. In August of last year, the first leftist president of Colombia lifted the arrest warrants and extradition requests against the ELN’s chief negotiators.
Shortly after, in October, the representatives of the Colombian government and the ELN announced from Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, that they would reinstate the talks table.
The slow negotiations during the term of Iván Duque
Petro’s arrival in power marked a change in discourse with respect to that of his predecessor, former President Iván Duque.
During his tenure, the right-winger ended ongoing negotiations with the ELN after an attack at the National Police Cadet School in the south of the Colombian capital, Bogotá, in 2019.
The fact led to the definitive suspension of the talks, some that were already faltering before. Duque had demanded the release of all those kidnapped and the cancellation of what he cataloged in 2018 as his “criminal activities” to be able to negotiate with the ELN.
The guerrilla group assured that it had “insisted on agreeing to a bilateral cessation to generate a favorable climate for peace efforts.” And he added in a statement: “But the government response has been negative.”
When the talks broke down, the guerrilla negotiators were in Cuban territory, where the process was taking place. Then, Duque requested his extradition in an act that was unaware of the protocols signed by both parties.
The Cuban response was to refuse to extradite them, creating diplomatic tension between the island and Colombia.
What progress was made in the negotiations with Santos?
Participation, democracy, transformation, victims, conflict and implementation. Those were the six points that the parties announced in 2016. Some were pending on the agenda of negotiations that began after nearly two years of “private” talks with the armed group.
The public phase of the talks began in 2017, after several disagreements over kidnappings between the government and the ELN.
Despite having the lines defined, the process was interrupted by the lack of a guarantee of a bilateral ceasefire. In 2018 this fell and led to Ecuador announcing that it would stop being a facilitator of the negotiations.
The talks moved to Cuban soil, but did not prosper with the change of mandate. Petro will seek to be the president who achieves one of the biggest pending after five failed attempts by Colombian leaders.
With EFE and local media