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Colombia, ELN guerrillas to start new peace talks Monday in Caracas

#Colombia #ELN #guerrillas #start #peace #talks #Monday #Caracas

Colombia’s government and a delegation from the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group will resume peace talks suspended since 2019 on Monday in Caracas, the parties announced Friday.

The resumption of negotiations “will be next Monday, November 21, in the afternoon in the city of Caracas,” read a statement posted to Twitter and signed by the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, and ELN peace delegation member Pablo Beltran.

Colombia has suffered more than half a century of armed conflict between the state and various groups of left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

President Gustavo Petro, who in August became Colombia’s first-ever leftist leader, has vowed to take a less bellicose approach to seeking an end to the violence wrought by armed groups.

The new talks were announced in October, with Venezuela, Cuba and Norway acting as guarantors.

Dialogue was started in 2016 under ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who signed a peace treaty with the larger Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, which subsequently laid down its weapons and created a political party.

The ELN is the last recognized rebel group operating in Colombia, although FARC dissidents that refused to sign the 2016 peace deal remain active.

Talks were called off in 2019 by conservative then-president Ivan Duque following a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that left 22 people dead.

The ELN’s peace talks delegation spent four years based in Cuba, as they had been barred from returning to Colombia.

They left Cuba for Venezuela in October to begin the new talks promised by Petro, himself a former urban guerrilla.

The government and ELN have not yet released full lists of negotiators for the talks beginning Monday in the Venezuelan capital.

Colombia and Venezuela recently resumed relations after a 2019 rupture caused by Duque’s refusal to recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s reelection the year before in a vote widely condemned as a sham by the international community.

Duque had accused Venezuela’s socialist leader of harboring rebels across the border.

But since Petro came to power, he has reestablished diplomatic ties with Caracas, allowing the Maduro government to help facilitate peace talks with the ELN.

Founded in 1964, the ELN has around 2,500 members, about 700 more than it did when negotiations were broken off.

It is mostly active in the Pacific region and along the 2,200-kilometer (1,370 miles) border with Venezuela.

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