The Colombian president announced that he will visit the island of Cuba on Thursday to accompany the closing of the third cycle of peace talks with the delegation sent by the guerrilla group of the National Liberation Army (ELN). After 35 days of talks in this third meeting, the government headed by Petro would seek to achieve the long-awaited peace agreement and cessation of hostilities with the armed group.
Long and turbulent days have characterized this cycle of talks between the envoys of the Colombian government and the ELN guerrillas, a stage that follows the two previous cycles that took place in Caracas and Mexico City respectively.
Both sides have described this third round as positive, underlining “the will for dialogue, compromise and honesty” on both sides. Despite the three-day pause requested by the ELN on May 12 as a result of statements by Petro in which he questioned the leadership of the group, the delegations have resumed talks with a possible ceasefire agreement in the center of them.
Through a post on the Twitter profile of the ELN negotiating delegation, the group highlighted the role of the population in the peace process and proposed the implementation of a “monitoring mechanism” in which the citizenry is the central protagonist. .
We propose that in addition to technical verification, the #Ceasefire have a strong social oversight component. The peoples who suffer from the war must be part of the monitoring mechanism. He #Ceasefire It is not the end of the war, but necessary relief to build a #IntegralPeace
– ELN Delegation (@DelegacionEln) June 7, 2023
On the other hand, Otty Patino, the government’s chief negotiator, has considered that the ceasefire should include “damage against the civilian population: from threats to confinement, through forced displacement and the recruitment of minors”, in addition to a ” geographical limitation”.
This round of negotiations was scheduled to end on May 29, however, the internal scandals in the Petro Executive and the crossed statements between both sides caused the process to take longer than necessary.
Despite the obstacles in the talks, which sometimes caused the table to be “in crisis”, both negotiating teams are expected to present their results in the Cuban capital on Thursday at noon, in an act where Gustavo Petro will be present.
Caracas, the first chapter of the negotiations
The peace process with the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional restarted in October 2022 with a delegation headed by the then recently elected Colombian president after three years of deadlock during the tenure of right-wing Ivan Duque.
Venezuela was the first venue and guarantor State of the talks that officially began on November 21, 2022 and ended on December 12 of the same year. At the table, they talked about the negotiating agenda of both sides, the institutionalization of the dialogues and the channels of communication between the Government and the ELN.
“For the Government of Colombia and the ELN, the participation of society in this process is essential in the changes that Colombia needs to build peace,” both parties stipulated in a document that led to the beginning of the first round of talks.
A fake ceasefire
The route for the second round of talks between both sides seemed on track, until a slip in the presidential communications of the Petro government on the last day of 2022 complicated the situation.
In the early hours of December 31, the president of Colombia posted on his Twitter a message announcing a supposed ceasefire agreement with five armed groups inside Colombia, including the ELN.
Three days later, on January 2, the ELN leadership denied the announcement by Petro, asserting that “there were no necessary conditions” to respect the ceasefire, after an internal confusion between the instructions of the presidency and the army, which continued acting as if the agreement did not exist.
“The ELN cannot accept as bilateral a unilateral decision of the Government, which does not abide by the formality of the Roundtable as the agreed space to reach understandings and violates the procedures of not disseminating to public opinion what is not based on consensus. Therefore , this decree does not compromise the ELN,” the group said in a statement on January 9.
Talks resumed in Mexico
After a presidential rectification and an extraordinary conversation table in Venezuela on February 12 between both parties, a day later, on February 13, the second cycle of negotiations began in the Mexican capital.
It took just under a month of efforts on both sides, but the round of talks closed on March 10 with final touches to the negotiating agenda, agreements on the role of citizens in building peace, and multiple primary advances in what Colombia expects from these dialogues: the bilateral ceasefire.
“[En la Ciudad de Mexico] The first steps were taken to agree on this national and temporary measure,” said the guerrilla’s chief negotiator, ‘Pablo Beltran’, after finishing the second round of negotiations in the country.
Negotiations for “total peace”
Reaching a peace agreement with the ELN is an essential achievement for the flagship policy of Colombia’s first left-wing president: total peace. This last commitment to negotiate with most of the active armed groups within Colombian territory, with the aim of putting an end to the internal armed conflict, which has claimed millions of victims in more than three decades.
Total peace was stipulated in Colombian legislation on November 4, 2022, through Law 418 that allows the Colombian executive “to advance negotiations with illegal armed groups.”
Despite generating division in the opinions of Colombians, Petro’s ambitious policy seeks to add more than 22 armed groups -among which is the ELN, the Clan del Golfo and various dissidents of the extinct FARC- to put an end to hostilities and end the bloodshed within Colombian territory.
With EFE and local media
Source: France 24