The ELN on Monday published an open letter to Colombia’s branch of the Catholic Church, rejecting calls to lay down weapons as a condition for peace talks with the government.
The president of the Episcopal conference of Colombia said last week that the release of everyone kidnapped by the ELN is a “necessary condition”, if they wish to begin negotiations with the government, echoing words by President Juan Manuel Santos who had demanded the same.
The rebel group called the church’s remarks “unfortunate” and stated that “these comments show that the catholic hierarchy disassociates peace with the struggle for social justice.”
“It also demonstrates their complete harmony with the discourse of the ruling class” the ELN added.
The guerrilla group addressed four factors which they describe as “decisive” in relation to the armed conflict, and argued that the church’s call for them to disarm failed to address any of these.
The ELN sought to remind the church that “there are two contenders in this conflict, the insurgency and the state” and that calls to disarm should be aimed at both parties.
Talk of disarmament however, fails to address “the vast inequality that characterizes Colombian society,” according to the rebel group. “Peace is not synonymous with the silencing of guns, but rather the result of major reforms that have been denied for over half a century.”
“Whoever brings peace to Colombia, cannot ignore the causes of the terrible social and armed conflict,” added Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group.
The ELN concluded by discussing the dangers of surrendering their weapons in a post conflict Colombia. “The possibility of politics without weapons necessarily implies a political system where the opposition is not stigmatized, criminalized, judicialized, persecuted and subject to the state’s violent repression.”
Colombia’s second largest rebel group has repeatedly urged to join peace talks currently being held with the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group. However, the ELN rejects any government-imposed conditions, instead imposing conditions of their own prior to the start of any negotiations. These included “the return to origin of the five million displaced, justice to perpetrators and instigators of the false positive scandal and the improvement of political prisoners conditions.”
The ELN is celebrating its 49th anniversary Monday.
- Carta Abierta a la Conferencia Episcopal (ELN webpage)
- Eln dice que no habrá desarme para un eventual diálogo con Gobierno (El Tiempo)
- Presidente del Episcopado: es necesario negociar con el ELN (Conferencia Episcopal)