Just hours after Colombia’s government and the country’s second-largest rebel group ELN announced they will enter into formal peace talks, there has been strong reaction from Colombia’s leftist politicians and international organizations.
The ELN (National Liberation Army) and the government have been fighting since 1964. It was originally formed as far-left movement with both Marxist and Catholic influences. Today the group is better known for kidnapping and the targeting of multinational oil companies.
Peace negotiations in 2002 and 2004 between the rebel group and the administration of Alvaro Uribe failed and military pressure intensified. In response, the ELN allied itself with drug gangs such as the Rastrojos to remain intact. The ELN currently has about 2,000 combatants as opposed to the 8,000 currently fighting with larger Colombian rebel group, the FARC.
On Tuesday, politicians and organizations from across Colombia and around the world have expressed their largely positive reactions to the announcement of new talks.
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombian President
President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos took to Twitter to recognize the initiation of the debates, stating “The armed conflict is only one, which is why a peace process with the FARC and the ELN is required. We are advancing in that direction.”
El conflicto armado es sólo uno y por eso se requiere un proceso de paz con las FARC y el ELN. Avanzamos en esa dirección.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) 10. Juni 2014
The UN resident coordinator in Colombia spoke on behalf of the United Nations praising the negotiations, stating that it is an “historic act, and to have reached this point requires secret and hard work.”
He continued, stating that the start of the exploratory talks between the government with the ELN and a message to obtain more opportunities and a “future with greater equality and security” for the country, reported national media El Espectador.
Colombia Reports spoke to the Norwegian ambassador to Colombia, Torleif Kveim, confirmed that Norway was a guarantor of the peace process with the ELN.
The ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) released a statement via Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who highlighted that the bloc praised the “effort for peace in Colombia, which is a preoccupation of the entire region.” Jaua added that the ALBA countries are “committed to the peace that the Colombians desire.”
The ALBA is composed of the countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.
Piedad Cordoba, Ex-Senator
Piedad Cordoba, controversial figure and leader of the rapprochement between the ELN and the Colombian government, praised the agreement and thanked the international community for their assistance in the issue, she told reporters during a televised press conference on Tuesday morning. She also stated via Twitter that, “Never has the solution to the armed conflict been so close, we [Colombians] have never had this opportunity to finally have a nation in peace.”
Nunca la solución al conflicto armado había estado tan cerca, nunca habíamos tenido esta oportunidad de tener por fin un país en paz.
— Piedad Córdoba Ruiz (@piedadcordoba) 10. Juni 2014
First-round presidential candidate for the Green Alliance told El Tiempo TV, on Tuesday morning that he welcomed the talks, but lamented that they were “contaminated” by politics and used for electoral gain, rather than as a state policy.
Ivan Cepeda, Senator-elect
Current Representative and Senator-elect, for the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole told Colombia Reports that he views this as, “an encouraging piece of news, I think that this is the first time that there is a scenario […] that opens the possibility of peace with both guerrilla groups in Colombia. It has been said that a peace process with the ELN was missing, here it is, and I think that it is a piece of news that fills me with joy, and I hope that on Sunday [the date of the second round of elections], citizens will ratify the rule of the current government [Juan Manuel Santos] to make peace.”
When asked about the participation of victims in the process, Cepeda stated, “I think that it is a fundamental announcement,” continuing to say that “this agreement shows that the subject of victims will be assumed in a responsible manner in the dialogues and that the process will have the active participation of victims, their movements and their organizations.”
- Live stream of interviews by El Tiempo TV (Canal El Tiempo)
- Interview with Senator-elect Ivan Cepeda (Colombia Reports)
- Interview with Norwegian Ambassador Torleif Kveim (Colombia Reports)
- ONU califica como “hecho histórico” las negociaciones de paz con el ELN (El Espectador)