Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced that any agreements resulting from the peace talks between guerrilla groups and the government will require complete disarmament, in an interview with Caracol Radio on Wednesday.
Criticized for agreeing to peace talks with Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, only days before the presidential election, and facing an increasingly popular opponent who wants to shut down peace negotiations entirely, President Santos went on national radio Wednesday morning to reassure the public in what he called an “act of transparency.”
In the interview, the president said that conditions for an agreement with ELN are the same as for Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC — with whom the government has been negotiating since 2012 — and one of those conditions is the “abandonment” of weapons.
“We have the same conditions [for the ELN] as we have put to the FARC,” said Santos, adding “there will be no end to the bilateral ceasefire, the military offensive continues, and there there will be no partial agreement.”
The president said that at the moment, the exact procedure for the surrender of weapons has yet to be defined.
President Santos announced the beginning of peace negotiations with the ELN in a joint statement with the rebel leaders on Tuesday.
The ELN has made previous attempts to engage in negotiations with the Santos administration, asking a group of academics to act as intermediaries in February 2014.
Faced with the possibility that the peace process with the FARC might shut down entirely if his opponent Oscar Ivan Zuluaga wins the presidential runoff on Sunday, Santos said that “these processes are not improvised. The country knows the profound difference between Oscar Ivan Zuluaga [and myself].”
“If these processes are disrupted, we will be continuing a war that could extend another 10 to 15 years, since many people have said this is the last chance,” Santos concluded.
The peace talks with the FARC began in November 2012 and are currently being held in Havana, Cuba.
So far, the Colombian government and the FARC have agreed upon three points of a six point peace agreement, including agrarian reform, political participation rights, and illicit drugs.
Following the issue of victims’ rights and reparations, demobilization and an overall peace agreement are next on the agenda.