Santos suspends inauguration of talks with Colombia’s ELN rebels

Juan Manuel Santos (Image credit: President's Offide)

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday suspended peace talks with rebel group ELN only hours before they were supposed to be inaugurated.

The talks were suspended after the guerrillas failed to release ex-congressmen Odin Sanchez, whose liberation was a condition for the formal talks to begin.

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“I want to announce to the country that I have given the instructions to the negotiation team with the ELN to suspend their trip to the city of Quito,” Ecuador where everything had been put in place for the ceremony.

The ELN negotiating team arrived only yesterday, but their plan as of now is unclear.

Thursday was meant to be a celebratory inauguration of the illusive peace talks in Quito, the actual negotiations were set to begin Thursday, November 3.

The ceremonies were set to begin at 5pm, but Santos announced their suspension just three hours before the appointed time.

This was supposed to be the beginning of formal peace talks, with the previous years dedicated to bringing about the conditions that would lead both sides to the negotiating table.

The talks with the ELN have been marred by incidents since they were first announced in 2014, five days before the president successfully sought re-election.

The formal talks were already announced in March this year, but a date was never set after the president demanded the guerrillas to first release their remaining hostages.

The release of all ELN hostages was a non-negotiable condition of the government, and the organization had released several over the past few months.

Sanchez, who has been in ELN captivity since May, is a former congressman from Choco, a province in the west.

They agreed to release the ex-congressman, the only confirmed living hostage, on the opening day of the talks.

A second hostage was kidnapped allegedly by ELN members earlier this year, but the guerrilla organization has never assumed responsibility for this.

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