Colombia sends delegation to Cuba to discuss "total peace" with ELN

The head of the terrorist group corrects the Colombian president: it will be a "false total peace."

Colombian President Gustavo Petro sent an official delegation led by Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva to Havana, Cuba, to begin talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas. The objective is to resume peace talks. The government' s talks with the ELN had been stalled since 2018, when the presidency of Iván Duque demanded the release of all hostages held by the guerrilla band and the renunciation of all its criminal activities.

Petro, a former guerrilla of the April 19 Movement (M-19) did not travel to Cuba. He indicated that the talks with the guerrilla would be resumed at the same point and in the same place where they were four years ago, when Duque came to power: "We are going to check, there are many rumors, communiqués, expressions in favor of truces, of possibilities of peace. But now it is a matter of seeing if it is true," said the president.

Colombia calls for "total peace”

"Total peace is not only national but goes beyond borders," said the Colombian foreign minister when he published on Twitter a photograph of the delegation minutes before leaving for the capital of the Caribbean island.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, received the delegation of the Government of Colombia. It was composed of Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, Danilo Rueda, High Commissioner for Peace, and Senator Iván Cepeda, president of the Peace Commission of the Colombian Senate.

Leyva rejected from Havana the decision of the United States to maintain Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Last May, President Joe Biden's administration kept Cuba and Venezuela on the list. The foreign minister recalled the island's role in the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that culminated in the agreements for the disarmament of the guerrillas in 2016. His Cuban counterpart thanked him for his words.

Juan Camilo Restrepo, who was a negotiator during the term of former President Juan Manuel Santos, said that the start of talks is a fact that "should be applauded."

Guerrilla position

The ELN's top commander, Eliécer Herlinto Chamorro, alias Antonio García, affirmed on his Twitter account that the ELN's total peace called for by Petro's government is a false peace. "Because they reduce it only to the absence of armed confrontation. To give the wrong treatment to social conflicts will continue to lead us to armed uprising."

He also commented that "if the new and future governments continue to treat the demands of society and its mobilized expressions in the same way, they will no longer be mobilizations, but social explosions."

In an interview, Garcia says that peace negotiations should resume where they have stalled. In his Twitter he expressed his commitment to the new government, which claims to be interested in peace in Colombia, and reaffirmed that the ELN is also interested. "We have listened to their messages and we are in the best disposition to resume the talks to fill peace, with contents d social justice and democracy."

In addition to peace achievement with these armed gangs, Petro has also the challenge of enforcing the Peace Agreement signed between the FARC and the Santos government in 2016, which was practically suspended under the government of Iván Duque.