Colombia’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN, kicked off a four-day unilateral ceasefire ahead of Sunday’s presidential election. It could be the last in a long time.
The ceasefire took force Friday morning and will last until Tuesday to allow voters to take part in the second election round without interference in the areas controlled by the ELN.
Chances for a definite ceasefire are decreasing by the day. The outgoing administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and and ELN representatives in Havana, Cuba, have been negotiating frantically to come to a bilateral ceasefire for months.
The negotiators hope to present the incoming president with progress that would make it almost impossible to end the talks that would end the armed conflict that began in 1964.
This has been complicated, however, by major irregularities in the peace process with demobilized guerrilla group FARC and promises by the front-runner in the elections, the conservative candidate Ivan Duque, to suspend talks with the ELN.
Duque has not shown any interest in a bilateral ceasefire; He wants the guerrillas to unilaterally cease fire, concentrate in one spot, and surrender without many government concessions.
Victim organizations and locals from war-torn areas have begged the warring parties to make peace.
The ELN, which has informally been engaged in peace talks since before 2014, told Duque that he will find the guerrillas “at the table” rather than on the battlefield.
International organizations like the United Nations and the European Union, and also the Catholic Church, have been lobbying hard to keep the negotiations going.
The Colombian military has failed to defeat leftist guerrilla groups for more than 50 years and appear unlikely to defeat them under the leadership of what would be the least experienced president in the history of the republic.
The armed conflict that has been waging for more than half a century and involved multiple warring parties has killed more than 265,000 people, according to the National Victims Unit. More than 80,000 people are missing. More than 7 million people have been displaced.