According to the country’s largest rebel group, their two former top commanders, “Francisco Galan” and “Felipe Torres,” are not mediators, but “officials” promoting the government’s interests.
The rejection is a major setback after significant steps towards the resumption of peace talks by both Duque and the ELN.
According to the guerrillas, however, “Francisco Galán and Felipe Torres are officials appointed by the Colombian Government and functional to its plans. Therefore, they are not allowed to work with the ELN,” the 55-year-old group said.
“Felipe Torres,” whose real name is Carlos Arturo Velandia, is a former ELN commander who was with the guerrilla group between 1972 and 1994.
While a member of the guerrillas Central Command, he was arrested and spent 10 years in prison.
The former guerrilla commander has been a fierce peace advocate for almost a decade and has fiercely condemned the ELN’s use of terrorism and kidnapping.
Francisco Galan is one of the ELN’s founding members. This former member of the guerrillas” central command was arrested in 1992 and spent 30 years in prison.
The former guerrilla commander still considers himself a member of the ELN, but “retired” from the armed conflict.
Like Torres, he no longer believes the ELN’s political goals can be met through armed conflict.
ELN sees more future in civil society mediators
The ELN appears to have no confidence in any mediator proposed by Duque, but said to be “very optimistic” about the recent creation of the so-called Civil Society Faciliatory Commission that independently seeks to bring the two parties back to the table.
Duque suspended talks with the ELN when he took office in August 2018 when the talks that had begun under former President Juan Manuel Santos were at the civilian participation stage.
The civilian participation was already complex under Santos as it required the government to not just negotiate with the ELN, but also with a wide variety of civil society groups.