HAVANA (AP) — The Colombian government announced Thursday its intention to resume peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), suspended more than four years ago, at a time when the new government of leftist Gustavo Petro aspires to to finalize an agreement for the last active guerrilla in the Andean country to lay down their arms.
Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva arrived in Havana at the head of a Colombian delegation to establish contacts with ELN representatives. Gustavo Petro had said since the presidential campaign that he would seek to resume peace talks with the rebel group.
The last peace negotiations with the ELN, founded in 1964 under the influence of Marxism, began in 2017 during the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) and were held in Quito and then in Havana. However, the Colombian government suspended the talks in early 2018 after an attack by the guerrilla group against police officers.
And although he allowed his representatives to remain on the island in the hope of being able to resume contacts, the rapprochements were buried when in January 2019 then-President Iván Duque (2018-2022) terminated the negotiation after the guerrilla attacked with explosives a police school, killing 22 people, the worst attack in 15 years in the South American nation.
“Total peace is not only national but goes beyond borders,” Leyva said when posting a photograph of the delegation on Twitter minutes before leaving for the capital of the Caribbean island.
The Colombian delegate also showed his support for Cuba by rejecting the status of “State Sponsor of Terrorism” that the United States maintains over the island since the Donald Trump government. This goes in the opposite direction of the position of the previous government of Iván Duque (2018-2022), who shared the US vision against Havana.
The United States justified Cuba’s inclusion on the blacklist again for refusing to extradite a group of Colombian ELN guerrillas and for supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
“I want to thank Foreign Minister Leyva for his statement and his call to put an end to the illegitimate designation of Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism,” responded Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, and then shook hands with his counterpart.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said on his Twitter account that he received Leyva, who heads the delegation, as well as the High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, and Senator Iván Cepeda, president of the Peace Commission of the Colombian Senate. He accompanied the tweet with a photo with his Colombian counterpart.
Petro, who in his youth was a member of the extinct guerrilla M-19, told the press that Commissioner Rueda is authorized to make direct contacts with the ELN and verify if, as they have said in press releases, there is a possibility of restarting the negotiations. or bilateral truces.
The new Colombian government has indicated its willingness to seek “total peace”, which is expected to boost the disarmament of various illegal groups to stop the cycle of violence that did not end after the signing of the historic peace agreement in 2016 with the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Several of his commanders continue in Cuba since the breakdown of the negotiations. This generated diplomatic tension because Duque demanded that Cuba extradite the command so that they comply with judicial requirements, while Cuba refused, relying on compliance with the protocol signed in the peace negotiations that contemplated that in the event of a breach, the command he would have a few days to return to his camps.
Suárez reported from Bogotá.