Colombian President calls for agreement on ceasefire in the third round of talks with ELN

In response to the government’s call, the ELN issued a statement and reiterated its willingness to work to reach a bilateral ceasefire with the Gustavo Petro government

April 05, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for an agreement on a bilateral ceasefire in the third round of peace talks with the ELN guerilla group. (Photo: Colombian Presidency/Twitter)

The search for peace in Colombia continues. Last Friday, on March 31, Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with the members of his peace negotiating team and the representatives of the guarantor and accompanying countries to the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerilla group.

At the end of the meeting, which took place at the Casa de Nariño, President Petro urged the left-wing rebel group to pledge to support peace in the face of the recent attack against a unit of the Colombian army. The head of state also instructed his team to try to reach agreements on a bilateral ceasefire and mechanisms for the participation of civil society in the process by the end of the third round of peace talks, which will take place in Havana, Cuba.

The emergency meeting was called after the attack carried out by the ELN last Wednesday against a military unit in the El Carmen municipality, Norte de Santander department, left nine soldiers dead and another nine wounded.

Petro also indicated that measures to engage in dialogue to the communities affected by the violence would be carried out by government officials in the upcoming days.

In a press conference held after the meeting, Iván Danilo Rueda, the High Commissioner for Peace of the Colombian government, explained that the communities in the territories most affected by the ELN’s actions had asked the President for scenarios where they can be heard.

“The communities have called on the President of the Republic and the Government’s peace delegation to develop a series of listening spaces where they can immediately share their concerns and their initiatives for peremptory and demanding humanitarian agreements from all parties, but in particular from the National Liberation Army,” said Rueda.

ELN reiterates its willingness to reach bilateral ceasefire

In response to the government’s call, on Monday April 3, the ELN issued a statement in which it reiterated its willingness to work to reach a bilateral ceasefire with the Petro government.

With regard to the attack last week, the ELN said that “the country must know that the Military Forces continue to carry out an offensive against our forces.” The guerilla group recalled that on January 28, seven members of group were captured and executed in the rural area of ​​Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department, while the First Commander of the José Antonio Galán Front, Luis Gabriel Zea Bernal, was killed in the Remedios municipality, Antioquia department, all when they were “unarmed and defenseless.”

The ELN added that its peace delegation raised concerns about these incidents during the second round of talks, held in Mexico City, Mexico, but the media, the authorities and the government itself remained completely silent about them.

Nevertheless, the ELN stressed that “the reality is that the dialogue process is still taking place in the midst of the conflict, a bilateral ceasefire has not yet been agreed, although we are already working with the government to achieve it, there are actions on both sides.” The group also stressed that “as a contending force, as long as there is no ceasefire and we continue to be attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves and to act in response.”

“We reiterate our willingness and disposition to work and reach a bilateral ceasefire, its respective protocols and the monitoring and verification mechanisms; with this we seek to advance in the dialogues and create a climate of guarantees for the participation of society, in the examination of the realities of the country and in the formulation of the basic transformations to enable a climate of peace. We call on the government of President Petro, the popular, progressive and democratic forces and the entire country to join efforts towards peace, change and a new country, and to not allow the same old people to continue to rule,” the ELN concluded.