Colombia’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN, confirmed Wednesday that it would release a former congressman on Thursday, in time for peace talks to begin next week.
The announcement was made by “Ariel Uriel,” the commander of the Che Guevara Front, which has held former House Representative Odin Sanchez hostage in the jungles of the western Choco jungles since April last year.
The release of the politician was a condition for President Juan Manuel Santos to allow peace talks that are now set to begin on February 7 in the Ecuadorean capital Quito.
According to Uriel, the operation that will ultimately lead to the release of the politician has already begun and is accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross and six guarantor nations.
In order to allow the safe return of Sanchez, the military has ceased activity in an area the size of 50 square kilometers.
“On February 1, military operations were suspended and tomorrow the delegates from the six countries, two ELN peace delegates, one government delegate and two delegates of the Red Cross will come” to pick up the hostage, said the ELN chief.
The ELN has been fighting the state since 1964 in a multi-party war that has cost more than 265,000 lives and displaced approximately 7 million Colombians.
The group is the last original illegal armed actor in the 52-year war.