Colombia Delays Peace Talks with ELNNovember 3, 2016 in Uncategorized
Colombia has announced that it is delaying peace talks with Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels until they free a politician who has been held captive for six months. President Juan Manuel Santos made the announcement on 27 October as he struggles to salvage a peace agreement with the FARC that was rejected in a referendum.
Reiterating a condition he set months ago, President Santos disclosed that the ELN, which is the country’s second-biggest insurgent group, must release Odin Sanchez to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) before talks can begin in Ecuador. The opening ceremony had been scheduled to take place in Ecuador’s capital on 27 October at 6 PM ED (2200 GMT) however it was cancelled at the last minute.
Furthermore, recent remarks by ELN members have posed a setback to the talks. Member of the ELN Negotiating Team Pablo Beltran has disclosed that the group has the right to “deprive liberty” from people in the armed conflict in Colombia, effectively meaning that the group claims that kidnapping is their legal right. Statements by Pablo Beltran have also caused problems for the negotiations to release Mr Sanchez.
The 2,000-strong ELN, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union (EU), had kidnapped hundreds of people during its 52-year insurgency in order to raise funds and use hostages as bargaining ships with the Colombian government.
The talks with the ELN are likely to mirror those, which were held with the FARC. The peace agreement was signed on 26 September with the FARC and while it was internationally lauded, it was criticised by many in Colombia for being too lenient on the rebels. Former President Alvaro Uribe is now leading the effort to change the agreement that would have given the FARC guaranteed congressional seats and immunity from traditional jail sentences.