Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro has in mind a series of revolutionary changes to achieve total peace in a country torn by guerrilla wars for over six decades, including the resumption of talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), it was reported Tuesday.
Petro plans to ask the rebel organization for a bilateral ceasefire to resume negotiations interrupted under the incumbent Iván Duque. Petro would thus recognize the security protocols the ELN had agreed upon with the administration of then-President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018).
The moment of peace has arrived, Petro insisted. What I request will be a ceasefire, which will be bilateral, he added. After that, political and judicial negotiations are to get under way.
The Duque administration halted peace talks with the ELN, among other reasons, because of the 2019 car bomb attack on the police officers' training school in Bogota that left some 20 dead.
In addition to pausing the negotiations going on in Havana, Bogota demanded from Cuban authorities the extradition of the ELN dignitaries stationed there for the duration of the talks. But the Castro regime refused to acquiesce to that request, after which Washington listed Cuba among the nations unwilling to help in the fight against terrorism.
Petro also insisted he would print millions of copies of the recommendations delivered last week by the Truth Commission. I want to print millions so that every home has at least the recommendations of the Truth Commission, the President-elect said in a radio interview.
Regarding the peace agreement in progress with former FARC groups, Petro said he would agree to the land reform talks, but insisted there would be no expropriations, as right-wing politicians had suggested during the elections campaign.
On the military front, Petro was blunt. He does not want a top brass tainted by accusations of human rights violations. No one who is linked to human rights violations should really remain in the leadership, he said, although that deepened his differences with military officers who still cannot forgive Petro for his own guerrilla past within the M19 group.
The President-elect also underlined that the bulk of the military budget will be spent on the welfare of the troops, with better education and health services, and bringing down the walls between privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers. He envisions a military career where NCOs can get past Sergeant Major and move on all the way to General.
Petro also denied he intended to shift the Police from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Government, but he did agree to keep the agency's jurisdiction away from strictly military issues that will be left up to the army. The police have been under heavy criticism for their violence during the social protests of 2019 and 2021.