Colombia’s ELN Rebels Suspend Peace Talks

Colombia’s leftist ELN rebels pulled out of peace talks with the government on Tuesday, accusing it of violating ground rules set up when the negotiations began in 2022.

The National Liberation Army said in a statement that these sixth-round talks being held in Cuba were “frozen” until the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro keeps its promises.

The ELN complained that while the talks are supposed to be at the national level, the government of the southeast Narino department has announced its own separate talks with ELN fighters there next month.

The ELN has a centralized command, but its units have a degree of autonomy, which makes negotiating with the guerrilla army difficult.

The ELN statement said that because of these regional talks “the process has gone into crisis.”

Since his election in 2022, Petro has sought to put an end to six decades of conflict between the country’s security forces, guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and drug gangs. One of the guerrilla groups consists of renegade forces from the FARC rebel army that rejected a peace accord reached in 2016.

However, the president’s “total peace” process has faced multiple setbacks with the guerrillas, who are linked to drug trafficking and are accused by rights groups of taking advantage of various ceasefires to expand their influence, seize more territory, and recruit new members.

The ELN boasts an estimated 5,800 fighters and has been fighting the Colombian state since the guerrilla army was founded in 1964 in the wake of the Cuban revolution.

The ELN is active in western Colombia along its Pacific coast and in the northeast along the border with Venezuela.

Successive rounds of talks have been held in Venezuela, Mexico, and Cuba, which are acting as guarantors of the peace process along with Brazil, Chile, and Norway.

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