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Gustavo Petro has asked Nicolás Maduro to be the guarantor of the negotiation with the ELN guerrillas, which he hopes to start shortly, in a matter of days. The invitation from Petro, the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia, comes shortly after diplomatic relations with the Maduro government were restored after three years of rupture.
Maduro has received the official proposal through a letter signed by Petro himself. Both leaders have agreed a meeting in Caracas to set a roadmap. After receiving the letter, it was the Venezuelan president who appeared on television accepting the proposal of his Colombian counterpart. “To President Gustavo Petro and to Colombia we say: Venezuela accepts the character of guarantor of the negotiations and peace agreements between Colombia and the ELN,” Maduro said in a televised government act. The president added that his country commitment to peace, security and stability in Colombiawhich, in his opinion, derives from that of Venezuela and “the entire continent”.
The Venezuelan president recalled that in his day, former president Hugo Chávez had also participated in a peace process, in this case with the FARC and that episode ended in distrust between the two countries. Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe appointed Chávez as mediator in 2007, but he relieved him after learning that he had had contacts with a Colombian general. Petro, for his part, has reminded Maduro in the letter that Venezuela undertook in 2016 to carry out a dialogue agenda with the ELN.
Later, the countries structured a protocol that contemplated the return to Colombia of a guerrilla delegation through Venezuelan territory. The idea is to reactivate what has already been signed, to follow the indicated path, which will speed up the negotiation. The guerrillas have given signs that this will be the case. Confirmed the role of Venezuela and Cuba, where most of the ELN leaders live, it remains to be seen what will be the role of Spain after the offer of President Pedro Sánchez to Petro.
In March of this year, Human Rights Watch denounced the alleged complicity of some members of the Venezuelan security forces with the ELN in the development of “joint operations” on the border. The Maduro government has always denied such protection and has said it is fighting Colombian armed groups.
Cuba was the previous venue for the peace talks and the ELN negotiating team remained there since the break with Duque.
(With AFP and local media)