Colombian Senator María José Pizarro with the Colombian government’s chief negotiator, José Otti Patino, during the setting up of the third round of peace talks between the Colombian government and ELN guerrillas, in Havana, May 2, 2023.
The Colombian government and the ELN resumed work on peace talks on Wednesday, the guerrillas reported in Havana, after a “pause” due to remarks by President Gustavo Petro about illegal activities carried out by some guerrilla fronts.
“After a first exchange of clarifications on the recent interventions of President Gustavo Petro, we resumed the normal sessions of the negotiating table,” the negotiating delegation of the National Liberation Army (ELN) said in a statement.
The guerrillas promised to articulate the “prospects and proposals” provided by Petro to the agreements reached by the parties during previous rounds of talks in Mexico in March and in Caracas in November.
Petro told his country’s military on Friday that, although some ELN fronts are closer to the Colombian government’s position of achieving peace because of their “autonomy”, there are others that are with “the same flag” as their form of existence. Illegal economy, which includes drug trafficking.
“The issue of illegal economy must be resolved,” Petro said. The statement generated a response from the ELN negotiating delegation, which suspended work, requested an explanation, and pointed out that these declarations contradict the political position the government gives to the guerrilla group.
At the start of the third negotiating table in Havana, the parties reaffirmed their desire to reach a ceasefire and agreed on the need to include civil society participation in the peace process.
Colombia’s first leftist president and former guerrilla, Gustavo Petro, promoted the peace process through late 2022, but a deadly attack by the ELN in late March brought the talks to a halt. border with Venezuela, in which ten soldiers were killed.
Drought by more than half a century of armed conflict, Colombia has attempted numerous peace talks with armed groups, many of which have failed. In 2016, a landmark accord disarmed the powerful FARC guerrilla and turned it into a political party.