With less than 24 hours before the expiring of a bilateral ceasefire between Colombia’s government and ELN guerrillas, nobody knows whether Wednesday will see renewed violence or not.
Negotiators of the warring parties formally sat down again on Monday to negotiate a renewal of the ceasefire that came into force on October 1 last year.
The ELN has called for an entirely new truce to replace the one that has been marred by more than 10 incidents each month.
We are more than willing to extend the ceasefire with the ELN and renegotiate the conditions of a new truce.
President Juan Manuel Santos
Both warring parties have said to be prepared to resume hostilities if no new agreement is reached before midnight.
The United Nations, which is monitoring the ceasefire, has urged to avoid renewed violence, claiming that the truce has resulted in major improvements for civilians in spite the incidents.
Minority groups, victims and farmers organizations have also called on both parties to maintain a ceasefire.
ELN chief “Gabino” said in December that the guerrillas will not abandon the peace talks in the event the truce breaks down.
The government on Monday sent in a new negotiation team led by former Vice-President Gustavo Bell after the resignation of businessman and former Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo (Conservative Party).
The talks are complicated by a lack of confidence between the parties and upcoming votes to elect a new president and congress.
The ELN has accused the military of colluding with the AGC, a paramilitary group that has been combating the guerrillas in western Colombia.
Both security forces and ELN guerrillas are investigated for massacres that took place during the ceasefire.
The truce is the first of the ELN since the Marxist group appearance in 1964.
The peace talks take place while the FARC — until last year Colombia’s largest guerrilla group — is running in their first elections since the beginning of the conflict.
Also this process has been marred by irregularities and is hardly popular among the country’s population that is polarized after decades of drug-fueled political violence.