Colombia suspends arrest warrants for ELN guerrilla group

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Colombia’s new president Gustavo Petro has suspended arrest warrants and extradition requests for members of the left-wing guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The move, a fulfilment of part of a principal campaign promise by Petro, is an effort to restart peace talks to end nearly 60 years of war.

Petro, a former member of the M-19 insurgency, who took office on August 7 pledged to bring “total peace” to the Andean country.

“I have authorized the reinstatement of the protocols, allowing negotiators to again reconnect with their organization, suspending arrest warrants for those negotiators, suspending extradition orders for those negotiators in order to start a dialogue with the National Liberation Army,” Petro said.

“This resolution initiates a new possibility of a peace process in Colombia,” Petro said after attending a security council meeting in the province of Bolivar.

Discussions could begin where the Santos’ administration left off, the Colombian president said, adding he would recognize the protocols agreed with help from guarantors Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Norway and Brazil.

Previous talks with the ELN which began under the government of Juan Manuel Santos were called off in 2019.

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Representatives of the ELN, which was founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, have remained in Cuba since then.

The group said soon after Petro’s election that it was willing to consider negotiations.

Petro said Colombian and international officials were in Cuba earlier in August to find out about the readiness of the ELN to pursue a peace process.

The officials included Colombia’s high peace commissioner Danilo Rueda travelled to Cuba with Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, Senator Ivan Cepeda, and U.N. official Carlos Ruiz Massieu, as well as a representative of the Norwegian government.

Previous attempts at negotiations with the ELN have not advanced partly because of dissent within its ranks.

The guerrilla group has about 2,400 combatants and is accused of financing itself through drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping.

 

Zainab Sa’id

Source Reuters