Colombia’s government and the country’s second-largest rebel group have finished exploratory talks and are set to announce formal peace talks in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Tuesday.
The warring parties are widely expected to announce formal peace talks, similar as negotiation held with the much larger FARC rebel group, at 11AM ET (4PM GMT) at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas.
The talks with the FARC have advanced to reach their final stretch, but talks with the ELN long seemed stuck.
According to reports, one of the alleged reasons for delay was the ELN’s demand to hold the talks in the neighboring socialist-run Venezuela, which is ideologically aligned with the rebels.
However, that country is facing a political and economic meltdown, which has led to tensions between Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro.
This disagreement was solved by agreeing to hold the talks in multiple countries, according to El Espectador.
Where the talks will be held is yet to be made public, but the most likely candidates are Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador who have already participated in the preliminary rounds of talks and have offered to host talks.
The inclusion of the ELN in the ongoing efforts to end Colombia’s half-a-century armed conflict would be a major victory for Santos who has bet his entire political legacy on the talks and has been paying a heavy political toll in the process.
More importantly, if the ELN agrees to talks, this would undermine an ongoing trend of dissident FARC fighters joining their comrades at the ELN instead of demobilizing with their leadership.
This switching camps has already resulted in reportedly increased ELN presence in traditional FARC territory.
But with both groups preparing the end of their 51-year-long failed attempt to overthrow the government, less FARC fighters would be motivated to switch ranks.