Colombia’s second largest rebel group ELN called for peace talks “without conditions” with the government Monday.
In a statement published on the group’s official webpage, the rebels rejected the notion of talks under state-sanctioned conditions and accused the government of striving for a “false peace.” The statement also said that any dialogue must begin “with the face to the country” and that “workers and social organizations” must have a role at a future negotiating table.
The ELN claimed that the Santos administration was continuing the allegedly “warmongering” positions of former President Alvaro Uribe and that Colombia’s ‘dominant class’ had turned the nation into a “narco-republic,” in which “exploitation, repression, corruption and state terrorism” had made prospects for talks more problematic.
The rebels further claimed that current and past administrations had engaged in the “pacification and extermination of the opposition” and “persecution of any democratic thought.”
The government has previously stated that the ELN must end “acts of terrorism” and halt the recruitment of minors before peace talks can be held.
The statement comes a week before the Colombian Senate will hold the final debate on a controversial proposed constitutional reform known as the “Legal Framework for Peace,” that would see legal benefits given to demobilized armed actors in the country’s ongoing conflict.
The bill is part of a move by the Santos administration to reform the widely discredited Justice and Peace law of 2006, aimed at facilitating demobilization of illegal armed actors.
The ELN, a Marxist guerrilla organization originally influenced by liberation theology, has been at war with a succession of Colombian governments since 1964. They are currently estimated to have some 2,000 to 3,000 active fighters.