Peace talks with the the country’s second largest guerrilla organization should resemble the ongoing negotiations between the government and the rebel group FARC, the Colombian government’s chief negotiator in Havana has said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Government negotiator Humberto de la Calle has said conditions for the peace talks with Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), should be modeled after the ongoing negotiations between the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC in Havana, Cuba.
The negotiations with the ELN must be held abroad, according to de la Calle, and should not include a cease-fire on behalf of the Colombian government.
A cease-fire, de la Calle said, would give up the gains made by the Colombian government and the country’s military, and also serve to “institutionalize” the conflict.
“It is a difficult response because certain people say, ‘If you are talking then why don’t you give up fighting,’ but we have said that there are thousands of reason why this would be bad for Colombia,” the chief negotiator told W Radio.
De la Calle also added that the negotiations have to be carried out in a country which, like Cuba, agrees not to arrest ELN leaders due to international warrants calling for their incarceration.
De la Calle’s comments were made during a meeting at the “Casa Nariño” presidential residence, where he presented information on the three agreements reached so far with the country’s largest rebel group, according to Colombia’s W Radio. During his presentation, de la Calle explained the significance of the agreements reached, which he said offered a concrete chance at peace.
In a statement released Wednesday, De la Calle also criticized a campaign of misinformation that has emerged following the government’s decision to pursue negotiations with the ELN.
“We want to express our respect for people who on principle object to the fact that the peace talks are taking place. And we want to distinguish this from the fallacies that have been spread which are unacceptable. As a group, we protest the malicious ways in which certain people have tried to influence public opinion on this matter,” the statement read.
Victims rights, de la Calle said in the statement, are the “center of gravity” in the peace process, and the main objective for the peace negotiations with the ELN should be to achieve “true peace.”
After two years of on-again, off-again communication between the guerrilla group and the government, the warring parties announced the peace talks less than one week before presidential elections in which President Juan Manuel Santos faces Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
The ELN and the government have been fighting since 1964. Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, was originally formed as a Marxist-Leninist/Liberation Theology movement. Today however, the group as currently constituted bears little resemblance to its founding ideology. The ELN regularly kidnaps and targets multinational oil corporations.
Colombia has been in peace talks with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, since November of 2012 in Havana, Cuba.
The differing plans for peace have been one of the top topics of discussion in the upcoming second-round of Colombian presidential elections, slated for 15 June.
Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos campaigns on claims he represents “peace, as opposed to a war without end,” while challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga promises a peace “without impunity.” Zuluaga has alleged that Santos would give too much leniency to the leaders of the FARC in the event of a peace accord being reached.