FARC leader “Timochenko” and ELN leader “Gabino” on Tuesday announced they had met last month. Following the announcement, the FARC called on the government to allow the ELN access to the peace talks table and the ELN supported the FARC’s proposal to hold a constituent assembly in order to change Colombia’s constitution.
According to conflict analyst Kyle Johnson, the two groups’ meeting is historic and likely to seek the improvement of both rebel groups’ negotiating positions with the government, with who the FARC is formally holding peace negotiations and the ELN are informally talking.
Johnson told Colombia Reports that the FARC is likely to be using the alliance with the ELN to increase its political weight while talking to the government, while at the same time exercise some control over the ELN’s political supporters and fighters.
However, Johnson thinks the intent to move closer together could eventually work against the FARC’s efforts to negotiate peace as the government and the armed forces will want to keep both groups separated for strategic reasons both at the table and in the battlefield.
According to Johnson, there are no records of the leaders of the FARC and ELN meeting since their involvement in peace talks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The groups have since frequently clashed, but have announced to improve ties since 2008 following a state military offensive that pushed both guerrilla organizations to the periphery of Colombia.
The FARC have been formally negotiating a peace deal with the government since November last year, but the ELN have been left out of the talks. Both groups were formed in 1964 by peasants trying to overthrow the national government that at that time was in control of political elites from the capital Bogota.
Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been killed since the latest armed conflict began.