1664770550 An ELN delegation travels from Cuba to Venezuela to finalize

An ELN delegation travels from Cuba to Venezuela to finalize negotiations with the government

The ELN negotiating team travels from Cuba to Venezuela to restart the process.The ELN negotiating team travels from Cuba to Venezuela to restart the process.

The ELN, Colombia’s last guerrillas, takes a stand. The negotiators of the National Liberation Army have left Cuba for Venezuela to start defining the dialogue process with the government of Gustavo Petro. Peace with the ELN has been a presidential obsession for decades and would be the first step towards what Petro has called total peace in Colombia. Both the executive branch and the guerrillas are in a hurry to sit down at the table.

These negotiations would recapture the foundations laid during the Juan Manuel Santos government after peace was reached with the FARC guerrillas. That attempt was blown up when former President Iván Duque broke off dialogue over the January 2019 attack on a cadet school in Bogotá that killed 24 students. From then on, the ELN negotiating team had to remain in Havana (Cuba) because that was where the negotiating table was set up. Now, on a matter yet to be defined, dialogue could take place again in Cuba, Spain – which has offered – or Venezuela, where they were jetted off the island.

Cuba, Norway and Venezuela, the guarantor countries of the process, allowed the delegation to be relocated. “This is a victory of reason and international law against the perfidious intent aimed not only at circumventing the commitments made with the ELN and the international community in the Duque government, but also at causing serious harm to the people and the Republic of Cuba for hosting talks as part of its commitment to the peace of Colombia,” the guerrillas said in a statement.

The trip to Venezuela would be a prelude to communication between the different guerrilla fronts and to decide to participate in the process. There are also members of these guerrillas on Venezuelan territory, who some experts describe as almost binational. The UN, in its latest report on the country, says that the ELN has at times had a presence in various areas of Bolívar state and that it has “links” with Nicolás Maduro’s government.

For Petro, the cooperation of the Venezuelan President in this process is crucial. Three weeks ago he asked him to be the guarantor of the negotiations, knowing that without him it would not be easy to move forward with the most complex guerrilla, the protagonist of numerous failed processes. Maduro himself this week ordered his army to cooperate in bringing about total peace in Colombia. In this area, the neighboring presidents find more harmony. The two countries, engrossed in a process of reunderstanding after years of rupture, also achieved last week the reopening of the border after seven years of closure.

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