In the midst of a new round of peace talks between the state and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, doubts remain about the compliance of this illegal armed group with the ceasefire. The current ceasefire was signed in August 2023 and ends today, January 29; in this period the criminal gang kidnapped 35 people and killed 43 more.
During the ceasefire, the ELN ordered 12 confinements to communities in different areas of the country, made 14 armed raids and carried out two violent actions, in one of which a member of the military forces was killed. In the context of these facts, it has not yet been announced whether or not the current ceasefire, which expires at midnight, will be extended.
Armed actions continue
Beyond the important crisis in November involving the kidnapping of the father of Colombian soccer player Luis Diaz, which, although he was soon released, caused the most delicate moment of the process, other illegal actions of this armed group cast doubt on the ELN’s commitment to a ceasefire between the parties.
The department of Arauca has been the epicenter of the ELN’s violent actions in the last six months. There were 39 incursions against the civilian population, according to radio station W, which also said that the other regions where aggressions by the group were recorded were Cauca, Narino, Norte de Santander and Choco.
The peace delegations of the state and the armed group are currently holding the sixth round of peace talks, and an announcement is expected to come soon as to whether the ceasefire will continue or not.
It should be recalled that between 2010 and 2016, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos held complex peace negotiations with the powerful and historic FARC guerrilla, now defunct, without formally agreeing on any ceasefire. Back then, with the war going on in the country, the peace delegations were able to negotiate point by point a concrete agenda that concluded with the historic success of the Peace of Havana, which had as its most important consequence the demobilization of the FARC, which were transformed into a legal political party, Comunes.
Crossed and contradictory messages
The two peace processes that the current government of President Petro is advancing, with the ELN and the FARC Central General Staff, have been developing ceasefires that, although difficult, have been agreed between the parties.
Regarding the ceasefire with the ELN, the High Commissioner for Peace, Otty Patiño, said last week that the last points were being negotiated to extend it. However, the top leader of this illegal organization, alias Antonio Garcia, publicly announced that this extension was by no means agreed upon at the negotiating table.
“Otty Patiño has said that the ceasefire between the ELN and the Military and Police Forces has already been extended. Where does he get these inventions from? At the formal talks table it has not yet been evaluated, therefore, they are pure Otty’s tales,” the ELN chief said on social networks.
Peace, but not demobilization
In an article written by the ELN leader, he differentiates between making peace and the demobilization of his armed group. In this sense, Garcia accuses the two state peace commissioners so far, Danilo Rueda and Otty Patiño, of overemphasizing demobilization through “a media war”, without addressing the underlying issue of peace. This latter reality implies, he says, real and profound transformations in society and the forms of political participation of the social majorities.
Antonio Garcia questions the historical effectiveness of the reforms agreed upon in previous demobilization processes, which “in the end, end up vanishing in the midst of intentions written with subtleties and technicalities”. The guerrilla questions the real options of the “people” to come to power in the country while the rules of the game “continue to be managed by the six big economic groups, with their political operators”.
What the ELN leader is asking for is “a participatory process to build a National Agreement that makes viable the transformations for a just, democratic and inclusive Colombia, where social mobilization can enforce a national agreement”. García has described the current peace process with the government as “another attempt to try to demobilize the guerrillas so that everything remains the same”.