Politics

Petro: Ceasefire renewal with ELN depends on rebels’ willingness to lay down arms

By Emilia Pérez and Isabel Saco

Davos, Switzerland, Jan 17 (EFE).- The ceasefire between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) can only be renewed if the rebels fully renounce their violent tactics, Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro said Wednesday.

In an interview with Efe in the Swiss city of Davos, which is hosting the World Economic Forum this week, Petro said extending the agreement – which is due to expire on Jan. 29 – would only be achieved if the ELN fully commits to peace.

“We are talking about a two-way relationship, like a marriage. There can be a separation, there might be a more fruitful path, but the dialogue will depend on the ELN’s willingness to abandon violence,” Petro said.

“They are being asked to abandon the path of violence. It will depend on them. We are willing to deepen the path to peace, to democratic regional construction, and therefore to popular power in Colombia’ regions,” the president stressed.

The Colombian government and the ELN agreed last year on a six-month ceasefire that took effect on Aug. 3, 2023, after a round of negotiations in Cuba in June. On Dec. 17, 2023, the rebels announced an agreement to suspend kidnappings for ransom.

In the interview, Petro also referred to dialogues with the group known as Estado Mayor Central de las Farc (EMC-Farc), which includes former FARC guerrillas that did not sign the 2016 peace agreement.

Petro said non-compliance with these agreements during the subsequent government of Ivan Duque, who was “elected with the slogan of tearing the peace agreement to pieces,” is behind the growth of armed groups in rural Colombia.

On Jan. 17, 2019, the ELN attacked the General Santander National Police Academy in Bogotá, leaving 22 dead, including an Ecuadorian cadet, and more than 80 wounded.

The attack led Duque to break off talks in Cuba with the guerrillas, which had been frozen since the start of his mandate.

“What we want is to return to the path of compliance,” said Petro, who insisted that the objective of the peace talks with these armed groups is about “transforming the economy.”

“The transformation has to be one of democracy, of the communities – not criminal groups – being the owners of popular power in those territories, it has to do with economic issues and there the international community could help us. That is what we have come to Davos to say,” he stressed.

He pointed out that the largest cocaine-producing regions in the world are the poorest in Colombia.

“The only poor coast of the Pacific, where China is, where Japan is, where California is because it is black and became the largest cocaine-producing region in the world,” he said.

He believes that “it is perfectly possible to produce cocoa, coffee or wood” in this region and that these industrialization processes, in the hands of the community, “can compete with the profitability of the illicit economy.” EFE

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