In a press release on the website of the President’s Office, Santos said his government has the “generosity to receive those who want to abandon the wrong path of violence,” but added immediately that “while they do not release the hostages, while they continue to commit acts of terrorism, while they do not return the children recruited by force, while they continue planting landmines and contaminating the Colombian fields, we will continue to fight these violent ones, without exception, with all we have in our power.”
Earlier that day, top ELN commander Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias “Gabino,” said in a video that his guerrilla group wants to open “a dialogue of peace” with the Colombian government, but demanded concessions in the government’s socio-economic policies. “We say to you that [the government] has the challenge of offering the country a path to peace, as it says in the constitution. The insurgency exists for social, economic and political reasons the government has not wanted to change,” the 60-year-old guerrilla leader said.
The ELN is Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group with an estimated 1,000 fighters.