Peace team is ‘formed and ready,’ waiting for Colombia govt: ELN

ELN rebels (Photo: Norte Digital)

The ELN rebel group continued its public campaign for dialogue with the Colombian government in an official announcement published by its Central Command on the ELN website Monday.

Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla organization has been seeking an official peace process with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos since shortly after the government initiated ongoing peace talks with the FARC rebel group last November in Havana.

“We inform the country and the international community that the ELN’s Delegation for an exploratory Dialogue [sic] with the government continues to be formed and ready to comply with Colombia,” said the ELN Central Command in Monday’s announcement, calling the start to preliminary conversations an “imperative” in the country’s attempts to end over 50 years of armed conflict.

The ELN’s push for formal talks apparently reached a turning point in late August, when the release of Canadian hostage Jernoc Wobert was negotiated in terms of a potential dialogue.

Since indicating his government’s willingness to begin a formal negotiation, however, President Juan Manuel Santos has yet to make any public efforts toward doing so.

The ELN, meanwhile, has stepped up pressure on the Colombian government, both in public communications like Monday’s announcement, and in a new wave of high-profile terrorist strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Monday’s publication follows one released two weeks prior, renewing previous calls for the government to open dialogue channels and outlining some basic themes of any potential peace talks. Since then, the ELN has been accused of various targeted bombings, including several on prominent oil and natural gas pipelines, and has released videos confirming the kidnappings of several energy contractors.

MORE: ELN reaffirms willingness for peace talks 

MORE: ELN releases proof of life video of 3 kidnapped contractors 

MORE: Attack on natural gas pipeline to Venezuela part of possible guerrilla offensive 

Attacks aimed at the energy industry in particular has long since been a primary tactic of Colombia’s mostly rural guerrilla forces. While the FARC has agreed to cease kidnapping activities as part of its peace talks with the government, the ELN has made no such arrangement.

In a interview with Colombia Reports last week, conflict resolution expert Camilo Gonzales explained that, while he would not speculate as to whether or not the ELN was in fact behind the recent string of attacks, the pipeline bombings do fit with a pattern.

“If you look at the ELN, they have been trying to get the country’s attention,” he said, “and because they have no civilian political presence, attacks like these are one of their only tools to put pressure on the government.”

The ELN’s recent campaign to initiate dialogue comes as the Havana talks with the FARC are showing signs of stalling. Negotiators announced last weekend that talks would be suspended until the end of August, with both sides accusing the other of frustrating peace efforts amid rumors of a complete cancellation of the peace process.

MORE: Colombia peace process paused until end of October, no deal on FARC’s political participation


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