Chances that the ELN, Colombia’s last-standing guerrilla group, will cease fire in support of peace talks are decreasing by the day.
Gustavo Bell, the former vice-president who has been negotiating peace with the rebel group, told press on Tuesday that his team is doing everything it can to agree to a bilateral ceasefire before Sunday, when the second round of the presidential election is held.
The front-runner in the race, the conservative Ivan Duque, has already said that he would end negotiations unless the guerrillas declare a unilateral ceasefire. A demand that almost certainly will be rejected by the guerrillas.
A bilateral ceasefire, which would effectively end the 44-year-long armed conflict, would “solidify the [peace] process, strengthen it,” Bell told press.
Whether this goal is realistic is far from certain, especially with so few days left. Bell earlier announced he would try to have a bilateral ceasefire agreement before the first round of the election on May 27, but failed.
The ELN is in no hurry to lay down their weapons. The guerrillas have a list of demands that include the active involvement of the civilian population in the peace process and the protection of social leaders.
Furthermore, the possible election of conservative candidate Ivan Duque could undo agreements made with the outgoing administration of President Juan Manuel Santos.
The conservative candidate has already promised to make unilateral changes to a 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas that many say will effectively end the peace process.
Whether Duque would continue talks with the ELN is even less certain. According to the guerrillas, the presidential candidate has failed to inform himself about the progress made in the talks.
Duque is unaware of the agenda of talks agreed with the government, which means that he is not interested in the participation of society in the construction of peace, in the democratization that the country needs, in the transformations that are essential to remove the reasons for an armed uprising or victims.
The conservative candidate demands that the guerrillas lay down their weapons while the military continues to attack them.
While not formally upholding a unilateral ceasefire, the ELN have refrained from carrying out high-profile attacks. Whether they will show the same level of restraint when the Santos administration fails to negotiate peace is unlikely.