A group of 79 Colombian scholars and artists in correspondence with the ELN published a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday, urging him to begin a process of peace talks with the country’s second largest rebel group.
The open letter enumerates advances made through communications with ELN chief Nicolas Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Gabino,” who reached out to the academics on February 3 asking to begin a dialogue. In their letter to Santos, the writers insisted that a negotiated solution to the conflict with the guerrillas is possible.
“We are encouraged by this correspondence with the ELN leader, and convinced that a negotiated political solution is the most realistic and convenient way for society to end the internal armed conflict,” stated the letter.
“Consider ELN proposals”
The letter continued, claiming that “there are many voices eager to begin a conversation, without which it is impossible to think of the decommissioning the armed conflict…[in] talks between the previous administration and the ELN in Cuba, various strategies for a humanitarian solution and atmosphere of peace were considered that would, among other things, lead to the release of hostages and the end of the shameful practice of kidnapping. We should reconsider these proposals now.”
The academics’ first response to Gabino communicated their support of negotiations and public conversations between the government and the ELN, and urged a commitment of peace from the ELN.
Bautista agreed, and expressed his group’s willingness to be accountable to its victims “in terms of truth, justice, and reparation”.
|“We believe that the May 9 election results reflect a growing support of the Havana peace talks, and the opening of a dialogue with the ELN.”|
“Growing support for peace talks”
The scholars went on to state that “regardless of the debate about the recent electoral process, we believe that the May 9 election results reflect a growing support of the Havana peace talks, and the opening of a dialogue with the ELN”.
The authors acknowledged the many political obstacles in the way of a negotiated reconciliation, referring to groups that want a unilateral military victory, and those in the business and agricultural sector who oppose social reforms pushed by the ELN, and fear a possible surrender of private property.
The Colombian government began peace talks in Havana with the FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, in 2012, but as yet have not made advances toward involving the ELN in similar formal negotiations.
The ELN last year released a Canadian geologist they had kidnapped earlier in the year, effectively removing what the government considered the remaining obstacle for talks.