Colombia resumes peace talks with ELN; accused of attack is freed to participate in conversations

The countries guaranteeing the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas expressed their hope that the negotiations resumed this Monday (21) in Caracas reach a good conclusion.

This is what Norway and the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela, which constitute the group of guarantors of the negotiations, stated in a brief joint statement with the Church Colombian Catholic Church and the United Nations, the latter two as guests.

“We thank you for the trust placed in us. We look forward to the process that takes place today. Without a doubt, it is an important step towards achieving peace in Colombia”, they declared in the communiqué.

The Colombian government and the ELN restarted this Monday in the Venezuelan capital the peace talks started in 2017 in Quito, during the mandate of the then Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, and which were later transferred to Havana and suspended in 2018 by his successor, Iván Duque, due to the attack by the ELN to the Cadet School in Bogotá, which left 22 dead and 21 injured.

The attack led the Colombian government to ask Cuba to hand over the guerrilla negotiators who were in Havana, a request that was not granted by the Castro dictatorship. In August, Gustavo Petro’s government suspended arrest warrants and extradition requests against delegates who were on the Caribbean island.

The parties, meeting at a hotel in Caracas, said in a joint statement who agree to “restart the process of political dialogue with full political will and ethics”, understood as a claim “of rural and urban territories that suffer from violence and exclusion” and stressed that peace must be understood as a “State policy” .

“We express our satisfaction at being able to witness today the resumption of the peace negotiating table, as agreed between the government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, ELN, on October 4 in the city of Caracas”, added the guarantors.

Furthermore, they promised “to act in strict compliance with our condition granted by the parties, in a responsible and impartial manner”.

Cuba and Norway have already acted as guarantors in the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, which led to the peace agreement of 2016, in which Venezuela, together with Chile, played the role of accompanying country.

However , the peace talks with the ELN face strong resistance in Colombian society. This Monday, Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal criticized the release of Violeta Arango Ramírez, accused of having participated in the attack on the Andino shopping center in Bogotá, in 2017, which left three dead and nine wounded, to participate in the talks.

The Colombian Public Ministry maintains that the attack was carried out by the People’s Revolutionary Movement (MRP), which has already been identified as a dissidence of the ELN.

“They said that Violeta was not part of the ELN, she would be a victim; but it is now confirmed that she will be a ‘peace manager’ in dealings with these terrorists. What a disaster, a system where the will of the perpetrator prevails, rather than the rights of the victims,” wrote Cabal on Twitter.

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