The Government of Colombia and a delegation from the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest active guerrilla organization in the country, resumed the fourth cycle of peace talks in Caracas under the mediation of the Nicolás Maduro Administration. The new meeting took place this Monday at the La Casona Presidential Residence, east of the city, and was attended by the Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez. Pablo Beltrán, head of the ELN delegation -insurgent group of Marxist inspiration with more than 60 years of military activity-, recognized that peace has “hidden enemies” who conspire so that it does not materialize, and that although they still exist, fortunately “they are fewer.” Beltrán said that the organization he represents, although “does not aspire to be a gold coin” was willing to “sign and comply with the agreements” under the parameter of “a political solution” with the progressive government of Gustavo Petro.
Otty Patiño, writer and former guerrilla member of the now-defunct Movimiento-19, speaking on behalf of the Colombian Executive, affirmed that the consolidation of peace in Colombia “is a State policy and gives continuity to previous efforts, the cessation of arms to settle conflicts ”. Patiño proposed to his counterpart “include the people” in these conversations that are being debated on this occasion, “what causes the violence, that the heads of the ELN fronts listen to the communities of those territories, to the victims.” .
The group of countries that are guarantors and supporters of the peace process -Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Norway and Venezuela-, together with a Special Representative of the United Nations and the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, pondered the “important advances” of the previous sessions They thanked the role played by Venezuela in this context, and reiterated their commitment to give continuity and strengthen the agreements.
The presence of Petro in power has facilitated the channels of conversation with the ELN guerrillas and has made it possible to continue the work sessions after having been frozen in the times of Iván Duque, although important obstacles persist. The Miraflores Palace, which has its own portfolio of adversities and faces a serious reputational cost abroad, finds itself in this context facing an unusually pleasing reality for its own interests, and, having good relations with both parties, serves as the perfect political interlocutor.
On the agenda, it is pending to give continuity and follow-up to the 180-day ceasefire agreement, agreed last June in Havana, and which came into effect on August 14. Some fundamental steps of a previous nature in the talks between the Government of Colombia and the ELN materialized in the talks held in Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued another statement in which it reaffirmed its commitment to “total peace in Colombia.” Miraflores, in turn, recovers some diplomatic weight. “In this fourth cycle we want to highlight the fact that it is possible that relief measures can be rapidly advanced for the affected communities, impacted by the armed conflict. It is a humanitarian objective that cannot be postponed,” said Vice President Rodríguez.
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Although it is not at all frequent that they carry out open military operations, the ELN guerrillas present in Venezuela -an organization accused of promoting terrorism by the governments of the United States, Canada and the European Union, among others-, have operated for years comfortably in Territories such as Táchira State and large remote sectors of the country, in Alto Apure, southern Amazonas and southern Bolívar State, especially in border areas with Colombia. Its concern has increased in the times of Nicolás Maduro. Occasionally they are repelled by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.
They set up their camps, move along the identified local rivers, do political work with the communities, recruit personnel for their operations, set up radio stations to broadcast their messages, and sometimes even become the authority in the most remote and defenseless. They levy a tax on trade and livestock and have been actively involved in the production and trafficking of gold in the mining areas of the country.
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