Colombia’s second largest rebel group ELN on Monday said that while they are ready to begin peace talks with the government, they view any attempt to place conditions on their entry into negotiations as “obstacles” to peace.
In an open letter to human rights organization Colombian For Peace, the ELN reiterated that “no-one should doubt our willingness to enter a dialogue in search of peace and the future of Colombia.”
However, the rebel group also stated that they have learnt from previous attempts at peace talks – there have been 5 such attempts since the ELN’s creation in 1964 – that “to place conditions on entering and developing talks between the [ELN] insurgency and the government is to put obstacles in the way of such processes.”
“We have numerous experiences of the posturing of previous governments, of repeated failures to complete established agreements,” the ELN said, even accusing the present government of such failures.
The ELN’s attack on the placement of conditions for entering peace talks could be viewed as an attempt to clarify their reasons for the recent release of Canadian miner Jernoc Wobert, who was taken hostage by the rebel group in January.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos had previously stipulated that the government would only consider peace talks with the ELN if the rebel group released the Canadian, and so when that action was taken it was widely viewed as a peace offering to the government on the part of the ELN. Indeed, the day after his release the President declared that his government was ready to begin peace talks “as soon as possible”.
But in the ELN’s letter they emphasized that the mining company Wobert represented, Braeval Mining Corporation, had announced that they would “abandon Colombia and hand over the 4 mining titles that they had bought in irregular circumstances.”
This, the ELN said, was the real reason for handing over the Canadian, not the government’s demands.
The ELN has been fighting the Colombian state for almost 50 years. While sharing similar ideologies with the FARC, the ELN frequently clashed with the larger rebel group until a non-aggression pact was agreed earlier this year by FARC leader “Timochenko” and ELN chief “Gabino.”
If the Santos administration succeeds in brokering peace with both rebel groups, it will mark the end to a guerrilla war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Colombians.
Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC and the government have been involved in peace talks since November in order to seek a negotiated end to the 49-year armed conflict.
While an accord has been reached regarding land reform, no agreements have been made on the issue of the FARC’s political participation, drug trafficking, the practicalities of the end of the armed conflict, and the rights of the victims.
- Carta Abierta a Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz (ELN website)