Conflicts & War

Colombia hails major progress in peace process with ELN

Havana, Jul 14 (EFE).- The signing here Friday of protocols for the impending cease-fire between the Colombian government and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) represents “fundamental progress,” Bogota’s top negotiator told EFE.

“This is a very big step because we transfer the negotiating table to Colombia,” Horacio Guerrero said in Havana, which has served since 2005 as the chief venue for a fitful peace process that finally bore fruit this year with agreement on a truce.

Representatives of the government and the ELN will take part in permanent working groups “for at least these six months,” he said, referring to the initial term of the cease-fire set to begin Aug. 3.

“Never before has this point been reached with the ELN,” Guerrero said.

Separate working groups in Havana and Bogota drafted the 13 protocols signed Friday in the Cuban capital, providing a detailed blueprint for implementing the truce and the mechanism to include civil society in the negotiations on a final settlement.

The government and the ELN have agreed to establish 22 offices charged with monitoring the truce in roughly 100 municipalities across regions where the rebel group has had a “historic presence.”

Those offices will report to bureaus at the regional and national level staffed by “joint teams” of ELN delegates and officers of the police and army charged with documenting incidents and preventing violations.

Supporting the effort will be a “very large group” of United Nations personnel.

For reasons of security and to ensure impartiality, the UN contingent will not include any Colombian nationals, Guerrero told EFE.

The protocols pertaining to incorporating society into the negotiations call for work over the next four months to prepare a “basic design” to make the mechanism operational in 2024.

As soon as July 2024, Guerrero said, the sides envision holding assemblies that will be organized both on the basis of geography and sectors, such as environment, business, and ethnic community.

The task of those gatherings will be to develop “proposals of social and economic transformation that the country requires in the framework of this process for the end of the conflict,” he said.

The participation working group will comprise 81 delegates from the Colombian government and the ELN, academia, indigenous peoples, environmental groups, and business.

Discussions scheduled to get under way in Venezuela on Aug. 14 will focus on the question of how demobilized ELN fighters will support themselves after peace is achieved.

“We are seeking a mechanism, as there was with the process carried out with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016. Once this moves toward the end of the conflict, there are legal conditions and of the environment in the international community for the corresponding financing,” Guerrero said.

The FARC, at its apex the largest guerrilla army in Latin America, made peace nearly seven years ago with the government of conservative President Juan Manual Santos, though some dissident fighters rejected the pact and refused to lay down their arms.

When leftist Gustavo Petro, himself a veteran of the long-defunct M-19 rebel group, became Colombia’s president last year, he made the achievement of “total peace” the theme of his administration.

EFE jpm/dr

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