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Colombian President-elect proposes ‘ceasefire’, talks with ELN

#Colombian #Presidentelect #proposes #ceasefire #talks #ELN

Colombia’s left-wing president-elect Gustavo Petro on Tuesday proposed a “bilateral ceasefire” with the violence-hit country’s last active guerrilla group, the ELN, to resume peace negotiations.

Talks with the ELN, which, unlike the FARC, did not surrender under the Colombian peace agreement of 2016, collapsed under outgoing President Ivan Duque.

“The message I sent, not only to the ELN but to all existing armed groups, is that the time for peace has come,” Petro said.

“What I’m calling for is a bilateral ceasefire” to allow talks “to end the war in Colombia.”

Petro will be sworn in on August 7th.

Duque’s predecessor Juan Manuel Santos initiated peace negotiations with the ELN (National Liberation Army), but these were cut short after a 2019 attack on a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 people.

Duque has insisted that the group, formed in 1964 after the Cuban communist revolution, cease all activity so talks can resume.

During the election campaign, Petro had vowed to speak to the ELN.

– ‘Availability’ for calls –

The day after Bogota’s leftist ex-mayor won last month’s presidential election, the ELN said it was ready to resume negotiations with the South American government.

The group’s central command said it would “keep its system of political and military struggle and resistance active, but also maintain its clear availability to advance the peace process.”

The ELN has grown in numbers and now numbers about 2,500 fighters and an extensive support network in urban centers, mainly on the border with Venezuela and along the Pacific coast.

Funded largely by the drug trade, it continues to fight for territory and resources with FARC dissidents who have refused to lay down their arms, as well as right-wing paramilitary forces and drug cartels.

Petro also reiterated his desire to restore diplomatic ties with Venezuela and expel armed groups active on both sides of the border.

Duque has repeatedly claimed that Colombian armed groups are seeking refuge in Venezuela with the complicity of local authorities, a claim Caracas denies.

Bogota says at least four FARC dissident commanders have died in Venezuela in recent months, but no confirmation has come from across the border.

The political party, which emerged from the now-defunct FARC, meanwhile, said a former guerrilla leader and signatory to the peace accord was killed by a sniper in southern Colombia.

The killing of 41-year-old Ronald Rojas brought “the staggering number of peace accord signatories killed to 333, mostly under the Duque government,” Comunes party leader Rodrigo Londono said on Twitter.

According to official figures, hundreds of former guerrillas have been killed by dissident ex-colleagues, drug dealers and members of the security forces since 2016.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the head of the UN mission in Colombia, condemned the killing on Twitter and reiterated “the need to strengthen the security of ex-combatants” in the country.

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#Colombian #Presidentelect #proposes #ceasefire #talks #ELN

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