The top commander of the ELN guerrilla group said Tuesday that the victims of Colombia’s armed conflict need to have priority in an eventual peace process between the group and the Colombian government.
Speaking from an undisclosed location on the ELN’s Youtube channel, Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, whose nom de guerre is “Gabino”, said it is fundamental that the victims of the country’s five-decade long armed conflict are addressed before anything else happens in a peace process.
“It’s necessary that the responsibility for the victims of the conflict is clarified, we feel that this is the first part that needs to be clarified in the process,” Gabino stated, adding that after this initial stage then the second and third stages of justice and reparation can occur.
The commander added that it is the victims themselves, after they have been exposed to the “light of the truth” who will determine the roadmap of justice and reparation process “[…] because they are the ones who have lived, and are living, the armed conflict”.
If these steps are taken during the eventual process, it will ensure “the satisfaction of everyone and the construction of authentic peace in our country,” Gabino added.
Rodriguez has repeatedly stressed the disposition of ELN to open peace talks with the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, El Espectador newspaper states.
This is the first time that Gabino directly addressed the inclusion of victims in the agenda of the peace process, RCN Radio reported.
During the Youtube video the guerrilla commander stated that Democracy does not exist in Colombia and that the country has been continually subjected to state-sponsored terrorism.
The leftist guerrilla group has been linked to drug traffickin, numerous kidnappings, and has taken responsibility for attacks on the infrastructure, recently declaring war on the country’s oil production companies.
Since November 2012 the Colombian government has been conducting peace talks with the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, in Cuba.