Petro progresses towards “total peace” in Colombia

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The left-wing nature of the government calls for a new negotiation with the ELN guerrillas, summed up more favorably than that of the FARC

Gustavo Petro’s government is already moving towards “total peace” promised in its campaign for Colombia’s presidency after announcing on Tuesday the resumption of the dialogue that former President Juan Manuel Santos started with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second group of oldest guerrillas in Latin America. On the agenda of these talks, which will start in early November, are civil society participation, democracy, transformations and security for peace, recognition of the victims of the conflict and the abandonment of weapons. The same topics that were on the negotiating table in 2016.

Petro had only been in power for a few days when he ordered resumption of contact with the ELN. The first measure he took was to suspend the arrest and extradition warrants that weighed on the leaders of the insurgent group, while at the same time expressing his commitment to respect the protocol drawn up by Santos. The country has changed a lot since then. The ELN finds a discussion partner that it has never had before. For the first time, he will negotiate with a left-wing government, and perhaps because of that ideological affinity, he is shaking hands with the executive to resume dialogue.

“The new political conditions have made it possible to resume negotiations. There is a shift in peace policy and it is likely that the agreements we make will open up new opportunities,” said Antonio García, one of the ELN leaders. In Caracas, where the first meeting took place, the High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, took part, pointing out that “this dialogue is based on a condition of respect for the history and memory of an organization and the Constitution of 1991. We start from what already exists, from what has already been agreed. We are not inventing anything,” he said. The meeting, attended by several members of the guerrilla group, also included representatives from the guarantee countries (Cuba, Norway and Venezuela).

The ELN responded to the decision to suspend arrest and extradition warrants for seven of its members by releasing nine people it had kidnapped. According to the High Commissioner, the negotiations will be far from similar to those with the FARC in Havana. Nothing was agreed on that occasion, until everything was agreed. Now the formula is “a point agreed upon, a point fulfilled.”

The National Liberation Army was formed in 1964, the same year as the extinct FARC. It was born with a Marxist-Leninist vocation, supporters of the Cuban revolution and with a strong foundation of the Catholic Church. The priest Camilo Torres belonged to this group, who was the promoter of liberation theology in Colombia and who was a professor of sociology at the National University and joined the ELN in 1965 and died in battle a year later. His ideas were followed by many university students.

In this group, which included idealists, radicals and dogmatists, and lately living off drug trafficking and crime, the Spanish priests Manuel Pérez Martínez, who would become commander-in-chief in 1978, José Antonio Jiménez Comín, were also integrated and Damingo Lain.

Apart from kidnappings and attacks on civilians and soldiers, the history of the ELN includes three massacres that marked it as a terrorist group for the UN and the European Union. In February 1995, the Domingo Laín Front launched an attack on the Venezuelan Naval Guard, killing 8 infantrymen.

The largest attack took place in October 1998 in Machuca, in the municipality of Segovia (Antioquia). The group detonated an explosive charge in Colombia’s central oil pipeline in the early morning hours, starting a fire that reached the population and killed 84 people. His last attack took place in 2019, at the Santander Cadet School, in which 22 young people died and 64 were injured. After this act, the government of Iván Duque refused to negotiate with the guerrilla group.

Source: La Verdad

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