Colombia’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN, said Sunday it will “most likely” have agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with the government before Pope Francis’ visit to the country on Wednesday.
In an interview with newspaper El Espectador, the ELN-s chief negotiator, “Pablo Beltran,” said that “before the arrival of His Holiness there will most likely be a joint announcement” on the ceasefire that has been on the table for months.
We will agree on the terms of what is suspended. On the one hand, offensive operations and other modalities, and there will be monitoring that will work on alerts and prevention. That is the structure that will have the cessation.
The ELN leader remained vague about whether the ceasefire deal he expected to close with the government would entirely comply with the government demands to also end guerrilla activity affecting civilians like extortion, kidnapping and attacks on public infrastructure.
Each party takes note of the largest humanitarian emergencies and each one will try to respond to these emergencies. This cessation will have a national element, offensive operations, but also humanitarian relief intended for people. That is the commitment we assume, both the ELN and the government.
The government delegation has not confirmed to be close to a ceasefire amid talks that have been marred by delays since initially announced days before the reelection of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2014.
The guerrillas and the government delegation have been negotiating a peace deal in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito since February, three months after a peace process began with what formerly was the country’s largest Marxist guerrilla group, the FARC.
If the warring parties come to an agreement to a ceasefire, this would be a preliminary end of an armed conflict between the state and leftist guerrilla groups that began in 1964.
This would not mean an end to political violence in Colombia, however, as smaller dissident drug-fueled factions of demobilized guerrilla and paramilitary groups continue to be active throughout the country.