Colombia’s ELN rebels said Monday they want guarantees they won’t be extradited to the United States while negotiating peace abroad.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno told the Colombian government and the guerrillas last week that his country would no longer host the talks.
Before agreeing to continue the talks in one of the five other guarantor countries, the ELN’s chief negotiator, “Pablo Beltran,” told French press agency AFP he needs protection from US authorities.
Earlier this month, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requested the extradition of a leading commander of the FARC, triggering a crisis in the peace process with this guerrilla group.
The move also alarmed the ELN, which continues to use drug trafficking to fund its guerrilla organization and believes the US government could try to derail the talks.
The ELN is also accused of having kidnapped US citizens in the year 2000.
“There is an explicit decision by the United States government to go against the Colombian peace process,” Beltran told AFP.
Imagine that we are going to country X and while there the US Department of Justice says: “Hey, I need you to extradite this guy from the ELN delegation.” If that possibility is not considered and the ELN delegation has no legal guarantees, you can imagine how hazardous it will be to continue.
Furthermore, wherever a plane with the ELN delegation goes, overflight permits and overflight guarantees must be processed country by country. The United States is an expert in this, in requesting planes flying to land and say: “Hey, come here, respond to the charge I have against you.”
According to Beltran, his team has asked Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office for information on outstanding extradition requests against ELN leaders, but received no response.
The US has actively supported the Colombian military, which has been fighting Marxist guerrillas since 1964. US authorities have had difficulty continuing their “war on drugs” without interfering in efforts to build peace in the South American country.