Colombian government and ELN resume peace talks in Caracas

The government is taking a new approach after the narco-guerrilla group's decision to continue kidnappings.

(AFP / VOZ MEDIA) The Colombian government and the narco-guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) signed the first agreement on the peace negotiation agenda Saturday, which includes the participation of society in the process, the greatest advance so far in the negotiations that have been off and on for 18 months.

"We know that peace is not built with oblivion and impunity, and that the voice of the victims is fundamental in this process and the legitimacy of the agreements," said delegates of the Colombian government and the terrorist organization ELN in a joint statement, in reference to the agreed point on social participation.

"We commit to preparing and carrying out a meeting where the victims of the armed conflict, of sociopolitical and structural violence, of the territories and populations, present proposals" to enrich the peace process, added the communication, which reported of a meeting on Friday with victims' organizations.

Pablo Beltrán, head of the ELN delegation, said during the announcement that point one "seeks that there be a great social and political alliance, that we are moving towards a major national agreement."

The signing of the first point of six is ​​the main advance in the round of negotiations, which resumed at the beginning of April in Venezuela and nearly fell apart at various moments.

In May 2023, the leadership of the Marxist-Cuban-inspired guerrilla group, put the talks "on pause" after accusing Bogotá of implementing a parallel process with a front that does not respond to the orders of the so-called Central Command of the ELN in the department of Nariño (southwest).

In mid-April, the parties resumed the process after an "extraordinary meeting" in Caracas.

However, on May 6, the ELN announced that it would resume kidnappings, alleging that Gustavo Petro's leftist government failed to fulfill its commitment to provide donations from the international community.

Despite this Saturday's progress, the resumption of kidnappings remains a critical point for a peace process between both sides, which have been talking since the end of 2022, with Caracas, Mexico City and Havana serving as rotating headquarters.

The parties will maintain the bilateral ceasefire that was renewed in February in Havana and has been in force since August 2023.

This negotiation process has gone through several moments of turbulence, such as the "armed strikes" in which the rebels ordered thousands of people to lock themselves in their homes, or the kidnapping of the father of Liverpool soccer player Luis Díaz, as well as clashes between different criminal groups.