When Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos announced peace talks with rebel group ELN in June, he was accused of trying to influence elections set days later. Seven week after the initial announcement and Santos’ successful reelection bid, no talks are taking place.
Santos announced the talks on June 10, five days before the president faced hard-liner Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in the second round of the most fiercely contested elections in Colombia’s recent history.
Critics of the announcement
The announcement immediately caused criticism by Zuluaga and his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe.
According to them, Santos was using the announcement for electoral purposes and was hoping the peace talks would secure his win in a neck-a-neck race for the 2014-2018 term.
“It is suspicious that a few days before the election of a new government, in an act of desperation, they use peace for their electoral processes, it is a bad precedent for the country,” said Zuluaga immediately after the announcement and days before his electoral defeat.
Zuluaga was supported by second-round ally Marta Lucia Ramirez (Conservative Party) who had been a vociferous critic of ongoing peace talks with the FARC. The right wing politicians were quick to rule that Santos’ announcement was nothing but an election stunt.
However, pro-peace talks Green Party politician Peñalosa also not hesitated in turning to Twitter to state that “announcing negotiations with the ELN at five days from the elections, is continuing to abuse peace for electorally.”
Leftist opposition Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo joined the critics and explicitly took distance from his party, the socialist Democratic Pole which supported Santos’ second round bid claiming to be in support of peace.
Even the ELN questioned the timing of the announcement, and claimed days after Santos’ reelection it had been in favor of announcing the holding of the talks well before the second election round.
“Since the beginning we have opposed the secrecy, rhythm and informality of the talks, consequently President Santos needs to respond to the question, ‘Why were they made public only now?’” the ELN said on June 17, two days after Santos’ reelection.
Since his re-election on June 15, Santos has continued to say the dialogue will come. Two days after Santos’ reelection, the government revealed a preliminary framework for the dialogue that showed many similarities to the structure of the FARC peace talks that began in 2012.
However, more than a month and a half after the official announcement, no start date for talks has been set and Santos’ office has refused to make announcements about when the formal talks are supposed to be held.
The ELN, Colombia’s second largest rebel group after the FARC, has been fighting the state since its foundation in 1964.
- Ecuador ofrece apoyo a diálogo entre Gobierno colombiano y ELN (TeleSur TV)
- ELN reitera deseo de incorporarse al proceso de paz en Colombia (Radio Habana Cuba)
- Colombian Government and ELN in peace talks (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- ¿Qué es el Eln? (El Tiempo)