Colombia’s ELN rebels said Sunday that the government has failed to set a date for negotiations for the round in which the warring parties would agree to formal peace talks.
In a statement published on their website, the guerrillas said that “our delegation for the dialogue has been ready since last November to attend the cycle that should finalize the confidential phase of these talks and initiate the public phase.”
However, according to the ELN leadership, the government has failed to set a date for this final round as has been common at the end of each round.
Since then, the guerrillas have been waiting, they said.
According to Carlos Medina, a university professor who wrote the ELN an open letter, some of the apparent delay is due to ELN demands the government simply isn’t willing to discuss.
For example, said Medina, the ELN has insisted on holding the talks in Venezuela. However, the Colombian government has major diplomatic issues with Caracas over Venezuela’s unilateral decision last year to close the border, making peace talks in that country extremely hard to accept.
Additionally, the ELN has tried including so many issues to the agenda that are not directly related to the conflict that this has frustrated advances, said Medina.
The government is also not convinced the ELN is willing to lay down its weapons, a condition for the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos to sign peace.
Moreover, according to Medina, the government is concerned about a division within the guerrilla group between supporters and opponents of peace talks.
This internal division could threaten a full demobilization of the ELN and lead to relatively strong dissident factions that could undo security benefits made if the ELN leadership signs peace.
The administration of Santos administration announced talks with the ELN in June 2014, five days before his successful reelection bid.
However, the talks have been plagued by delays and an deeply rooted mistrust between the government and the ELN.