Two members of Colombia’s last-standing Marxist rebel group, the ELN, have been released from prison in order to contribute to peace process negotiations with the government, El Pais reported.
The two men are set to act as peace consultants during the upcoming talks taking place on February 7th in Ecuador’s capital of Quito.
Their release was one of the conditions laid out by the ELN in order for peace talks to officially begin.
The guerrilla group celebrated the news via their twitter account on Sunday:
We greet our companions with immense happiness- as peace negotiators that now find themselves free. We are advancing in the peace process.
The ELN also stated that “the compliance of the talks between the government and the ELN are progressing” and with that “trust is also growing”.
According to agreements made last week between the two sides, the ELN must free ex-congressman Odin Sanchez on February 2nd. He has been held captive since April 2016.
For their part, the government must additionally pardon two ELN insurgents imprisoned for political crimes. The two ELN members selected have been identified as Nixon Cobos and Leivis Valero, who are both reported to be “in fragile health conditions” and “will be freed simultaneously with Odin Sanchez”, according to El Tiempo.
The release of the hostages will be facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Negotiations over the possibility of peace talks between the government and the ELN began in 2014, yet the two sides have been unable to see eye to eye over certain conditions.
The release of Odin Sanchez has been a point of particular contention, stalling the previously scheduled October 27 start date just hours before the talks were due to begin.
With the FARC currently demobilizing, the ELN is now Colombia’s last remaining Marxist rebel group. Founded in 1964, successful negotiations would bring about the end of a 52 year conflict which has cost the lives of at least 265,000 Colombians and left 7 million homeless or landless.