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Colombian government and ELN agree to start ceasefire talks

MEXICO CITY — The Colombian government and the country’s last recognized guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), said on Friday they had agreed to start negotiations on a ceasefire as the two sides opened a second round of peace talks in Mexico completed.

The aim is to reach an agreement based on international humanitarian law, according to an agreement read by a member of the government delegation in the presence of both parties.

Pablo Beltran, an ELN veteran, said that “first steps have been taken to reach a ceasefire.”

A ceasefire is the wish of “the entire Colombian nation,” said government negotiator Otty Patino.

“We heard that scream and we have a feeling the ELN delegation heard it too,” he added.

For more than half a century, Colombia has suffered armed conflicts between the state and various groups of left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

The Colombian government resumed peace talks with the ELN after Gustavo Petro became the South American country’s first left-wing president in August.

The talks were interrupted by his conservative predecessor Ivan Duque after a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 people.

The next round of talks is scheduled to take place in Cuba, but a date has not yet been announced.

Havana was the scene of negotiations that culminated in the 2016 demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which for years was the country’s largest guerrilla group.

– ‘Stay at the table’ –

The ELN reacted angrily in January after the government claimed it had agreed a ceasefire with Marxist guerrillas.

The government was forced to back down, but the dispute did not derail negotiations, which are backed by Norway, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and Chile.

Talks resumed in Mexico City on February 13, after an initial round in Venezuela in November.

Negotiators reported late last month that the Colombian government had recognized the ELN as both a political organization and a rebel group, distinguishing it from other armed gangs such as drug traffickers.

Colombia’s first black vice president, Francia Marquez, who was in Mexico at the end of the talks, urged negotiators to “definitely stay at the table.”

“It’s the first time I can look at their faces without fear,” she told the guerrillas.

In 2019, before taking office, Marquez survived an attack by unknown gunmen who tried to kill her for her work defending the region’s water resources against mining companies.

Founded in 1964 by unionists and students, inspired by Marxist revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, the ELN has participated in failed negotiations with Colombia’s last five presidents.

It has around 3,500 fighters in a loose structure in which various guerrilla units operate largely independently of one another.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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