The government of Iván Duque once again said no to the proposal of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last active guerrilla in Colombia after the peace agreement with the extinct FARC, to carry out a bilateral ceasefire to restart the frustrated talks. The Colombian president answered bluntly: “The ELN is a terrorist group that has flagellated the country with barbarism for decades. Colombia demands that they release the hostages and put an end to their criminal acts ”. The president launched his strategy of submission to justice for members of other illegal armed groups different from the ELN.
"If this bilateral cessation is agreed, a climate of humanitarian détente would be created, favorable to restarting the peace talks," reads a letter from the ELN. However, although the guerrillas mention the call for a ceasefire made by the General Council of the United Nations and even by Pope Francis, the ELN does not promise to release the hostages, one of the main positions of Iván Duque.
“The ELN must make more concrete proposals for the Colombian people (…) although for many it seems like a novel signal, it is not. If you have a serious and sustainable peace proposal, you must make more serious announcements, ”seconded the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos.
The Duque government is betting on individual demobilization. This Wednesday, it officially launched its strategy of submission to justice exclusively for the heads of the so-called Residual Armed Groups (GAO), including the Clan del Golfo, Los Pelusos, Los Carrapos and the FARC dissidents. From this route, the Duque government offers legal and economic incentives to members of these gangs to lay down their arms, said the High Commissioner. However, the members of the ELN will have to follow the path of individual demobilization that has existed for this group since 2003.
The Government's response is not surprising if one takes into account that on July 2, eight alleged ELN guerrillas who participated in the car bomb attack against the General Santander Cadet School were arrested, which left 22 dead and 89 wounded. And the president reiterated that this was a message to the guerrillas. That attack, which occurred shortly after Duque's possession, meant the breakdown of the possibilities of continuing with the negotiations that former president Juan Manuel Santos had left with that guerrilla group.
The top leaders of the ELN are in Havana and the current Administration has demanded that the Cuban government capture and extradite those who arrived there as negotiators and for that very reason they are protected by the protocols for breaking the dialogues. The fact has caused friction in international relations. The United States used Cuba's refusal to extradite the guerrillas to include the island in the list of countries that "did not cooperate fully" with the anti-terrorism efforts of the Donald Trump Administration and puts it one step away from placing it on the list black from sponsors of terrorism. Colombia abstained from voting to lift the economic blockade on the island in criticism of what it has called "hostile acts."
Last April, the ELN declared a unilateral ceasefire as a "humanitarian gesture" in the midst of the pandemic. But at the same time, since the end of the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas, the ELN has been strengthened in areas that the Colombian state did not reach. The presence of the guerrillas along with other armed groups that are fighting over the territory, the drug trafficking routes and illegal mining, have the civilian population against the wall.
According to the latest report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in 2019 there was an increase in victims of explosive devices and anti-personnel mines, forced displacement continued and the practice of confining populations increased. For this reason, civil society and peasant communities ask the Duque government not to rule out dialogue with the ELN. In a statement that sparked controversy, the Archbishop of Cali, Monsignor Darío de Jesús Monsalve, said that the current government would be carrying out a genocidal revenge against the bets for negotiated peace. “Regarding the balance of the peace process with the ELN, personally I experience great frustration and enormous uncertainty in relation to the immediate future of these processes, and even in the medium and long term, because the processes that are, that underlie to this pandemic, they can destroy it, completely, "said the archbishop, although the leadership of the Church was unmarked from his words.