Colombian ELN rebels to Petro: We’re ready to advance on peace process

Bogota, Jun 20 (EFE).- The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas on Monday commented on the victory of leftist Gustavo Petro in the presidential runoff election on the weekend, saying that they will maintain their “struggle and political and military resistance,” but are also ready to seek peace.

“The ELN is actively maintaining its system of struggle and political and military resistance, but also its full readiness to move forward on a Peace Process that provides continuity to the (dialogue) initiated in Quito in February 2017,” said the guerrillas in a statement issued by their Central Command (COCE).

Petro – who won the presidential runoff with almost 11.3 million votes (50.44 percent), against 10.6 million (47.31 percent) for his rival, populist Rodolfo Hernandez – has said he is open to negotiating with the ELN during his mandate and resuming the dialogue that was transferred from Quito to Havana, where the talks were suspended in 2018.

In an interview with EFE in May, the president-elect said that he wanted to get back to the peace plan of former President Juan Manuel Santos, who governed from 2010-2018, ranging from fully implementing the peace agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels to resuming talks with the ELN.

Negotiations for a peace agreement with the ELN, he emphasized at that time, “was halted midway along the road but would have to be accelerated and, depending on the ELN, could once again … create the climate for peace and democratic progress.”

In the ELN communique, the rebel group also warned the president-elect that if he doesn’t implement “changes that get us on the road to overcoming clientelism and taking the violence out of politics, moving forward on plans for social inclusion that include jobs and business opportunities for the majorities,” among other things, he will not receive the support of the “popular movement.”

“If he sets himself up for doing ‘more of the same,’ he will have the people out on the streets demanding changes with more vehemence than in 2019 and 2021,” the ELN said.

The rebel group, the strength of which has grown during the latest Colombian administration, presented a list of things that it considers to be what it’s fighting against, including the government’s “national security doctrine” and “the old violent clientelistic regime, which has mutated today into a corrupt and mafia-esque system.”

The Santos government and the ELN launched peace negotiations in Quito in February 2017 but in May 2018 those talks were moved to Havana, where the last round of dialogue ended without any progress in early August of that year.

The talks hve remained suspended since that time due to the demands of current President Ivan Duque that the ELN release all the people it has kidnapped or taken by force into its custody and renounce that practice and all other criminal activities.

After the attack against the Bogota military cadet training school in 2019 which resulted in 22 deaths, the Colombian government asked Cuba to hand over the ELN negotiators who were in Havana but the island’s communist regime invoked diplomatic protocols and did not comply with that request.

Petro, during his campaign, said that if the protocol with Cuba was signed it must be respected and the suspended peace talks must be resumed.

EFE ime/joc/eat/bp

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