Colombia’s news media are speculating about an impending accord over a bilateral ceasefire between the government and the country’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN.
Negotiators of the warring parties have been negotiating frantically for weeks to secure a ceasefire ahead of August 7 when President Juan Manuel Santos is replaced by Ivan Duque, a hardliner who has threatened to end the talks.
Ten days before leaving office, Santos sent a top-level commission to Cuba, where the talks are taking place.
Earlier in the week, the president said that government and ELN negotiators are “studying the signing of a temporary ceasefire and a framework for future talks before leaving office.
The ELN’s chief negotiator, “Pablo Beltran.” confirmed in a letter to the Colombian Catholic Church on Saturday that the government and guerrillas are seeking a ceasefire that is “bilateral, temporary, and of a national character.”
Combined with international pressure to end the armed conflict that began in 1964, a standing ceasefire would make it virtually impossible for Duque to end the talks that formally began in February last year.
Among those sent to the Cuban capital Havana on Saturday are Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Peace Commissioner Rodrigo Rivera, presidential adviser Jose Noe Rios, and peace advocates Alvaro Leyva (Conservative Party) and Senator Ivan Cepeda (Democratic Pole).
News agency Colprensa reported Sunday that an announcement over an agreement to end almost 54 years of armed conflict could be announced “in the coming hours.”
According to Cuban state media, Holguin met with her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on Saturday. The remaining members of the commission are expected to have joined government negotiators at the negotiation table with the ELN.
The ELN took up arms in the same year as the FARC, the group that laid down its weapons last year, and is the last of the armed conflict’s original non-state actors.