ColombiaOne.comColombia newsColombia and ELN Guerrilla to Continue Peace Talks in April

Colombia and ELN Guerrilla to Continue Peace Talks in April


Colombia ELN peace
Colombia and ELN guerrilla to continue peace talks in April. Credit: @DelegacionGob / X

The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group are set to begin a new round of discussions on April 8 in Venezuela. This marks the seventh time the two sides will meet to negotiate peace after more than a year of talks.

According to a joint communiqué from both delegations, after concluding the negotiations in Havana, they will continue with “the activities foreseen in the agreements” and will make “an evaluation of the efforts and commitments during the seventh cycle that will take place” in Venezuela between April 8 and 22.

Thawing phase

With this announcement, it seems as though, at least formally, the crisis of confidence announced a week ago by the illegal armed group has been overcome. At that time, it was declared that “the dialogues between the ELN and the National Government would enter a freezing phase until the government is willing to comply with what has been agreed”.

On that occasion, the guerrillas accused the government of President Gustavo Petro of violating the agreements reached, both by military and police actions and by the initiation of a regional dialogue encouraged by the state outside the agreed process.

In the last joint communiqué, the parties announced that they analyzed “the advances in the agreements and the problems faced by the Table of Dialogues for Peace”, against which the two delegations have “acquired commitments for the good development of the peace process”. In addition, the illegal armed group committed to comply with “the internal consultations to which it was summoned”.

What has been agreed so far

In six cycles of talks over the last fifteen months, the parties agreed to a bilateral ceasefire, which has been extended since August 2023; the creation of a multi-donor fund to finance the process; and the suspension of kidnappings for economic purposes by the guerrilla group.

In addition to the controversy over the kidnapping crisis three months ago, the creation of the multi-donor fund to finance the process has not been without controversy either. As announced at the end of the sixth round of talks on February 6 in Havana, the fund would be used to implement points such as the participation of civil society and humanitarian relief in critical areas with the support of international guarantors, as well as the possibility for civil society to contribute to the process.

“A multi-donor fund has been created for this process, which was approached with transparency and with the participation of all, based on principles of transparency, respect for legality, international and national norms that seeks to strengthen and make this process sustainable in the development of the agreements that compose them and an ELN interested in peacebuilding,” said Vera Grabe, head of the government delegation to the peace dialogues.

For its part, the ELN guerrilla delegation also highlighted the importance of this fund because “it will aim to support the whole implementation of the agreements; not only the guarantor countries will be present, but also the accompanying countries, the United Nations, and it is open to other donors to help,” said Pablo Beltran, head of the armed group, three weeks ago.

Criticism of the creation of the fund to “finance” the ELN

The conservative opposition in Colombia, which has always been against the peace process, has strongly criticized the creation of this fund, seeing it, as some political spokesmen have announced, as a way to finance the ELN. In this sense, the senator of the opposition Democratic Center, Miguel Uribe, stated that “Petro intends to create a fund to finance the ELN. With this fund they will be able to launder assets, waste Colombian taxes or receive money from socialist dictatorships that support violence”.

From the same party, senator Paloma Valencia followed the same line of thought as her fellow politician, questioning the fund. “They propose a fund with international resources to finance the ELN? I remind you that giving resources to a terrorist group is a crime; and prohibited conduct even for nations,” said the conservative senator.

Another representative of an opposing force, the conservative Radical Change, also took issue with the announcement. Senator Carlos Fernando Motoa said that “paying not to kill will become a habit with Gustavo Petro: with this fund the ELN will get what it wanted most, the state and the international community gathering resources to convince them not to harm the rest of society”.

However, the questioning came not only from the ranks of the parties most openly opposed to the government, the conservative Democratic Center and Radical Change, but also from the ranks of other political forces. The Liberal Party senator, Mauricio Gomez Amin, stated that “we ask the ELN for deeds and not words, deeds and not promises. Let them not mock the country anymore! The creation of the Multi-donor Fund is a prize that they have not earned,” stated the Liberal senator.

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