According to the ELN, Duque’s “unacceptable conditions” will effectively end the peace talks that began in February last year after years of informal negotiations.
The conservative president, who threatened to end the peace talks while campaigning ahead of his June election, said Saturday that he will not resume talks until the ELN releases two kidnapped civilians and five captured members of the security forces.
Additionally, Duque demanded that “all criminal activities are stopped,” which is one of the main points on the agenda for an agreement of a bilateral ceasefire that was being negotiated until Duque took office last month.
“By ignoring the agreements made with the State and unilaterally placing unacceptable conditions, this government is closing this table, ending the process of dialogues and the efforts made for several years by the ELN, society, the previous government and the international community,” the group said on its website.
We call for a resumption of dialogue to seek peace without further delays, this is the urgency Colombia demands.
Duque finds himself in a difficult position. His hard-right Democratic Center (CD) party and his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, have consistently tried to frustrate efforts of former President Juan Manuel Santos to end more than half a century of armed conflict.
Partly because of his opposition to the peace talks and an ongoing peace process with the FARC, the president has been unable to form a majority coalition in Congress that would allow him to execute his policies.
Furthermore, the president has a historically low approval rating while the vast majority of Colombians, 70%, want the talks with the guerrillas to continue, according to Gallup Colombia.
Also internationally Duque has been unable to find support to reactivate the war against the ELN more than 50 years after the beginning of an armed conflict that killed at least 260,000 Colombians and displaced millions.