The Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) Friday signed in Havana a 180-day national, bilateral and temporary ceasefire effective from August 3, it was reported. The UN and the Catholic Church will supervise compliance.
ELN chief negotiator Israel Ramírez, alias Pablo Beltrán, stressed that it seeks a humanitarian purpose, to reduce the conflict so that in Colombia there is a better climate for the participation of society while Otty Patiño, head of the government's delegation, assured that this was a crucial step for the peace process.
The ceasefire is the main result of the third cycle of peace talks in the Cuban capital, which concluded on Friday. The round, which began on May 2, came to a successful conclusion despite some controversial statements by President Gustavo Petro.
The announcement -which was attended by Petro, his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the first ELN commander, Eliécer Herlinto Chamorro, alias Antonio García- was also a relief for the Colombian president.
Petro, who is going through some internal turmoil due to a scandal involving former ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti and his former chief of staff Laura Sarabia, said total peace could be achieved by May 2025 when the decades-long war between ELN and the State will definitively cease.
”The world of weapons and killing each other for decades (...) must stop. The violence we have lived through for generations, which we have been part of but have tried to overcome, tells us that we have not been able to build ourselves as a nation, Petro stressed. Here a new world is born, here ends a phase of armed insurgency in Latin America with its myths and realities, he added.
Senator Iván Cepeda, who is part of the government delegation, informed that on that date the agreements on the first three points of the peace agenda must be signed and that this would give a perspective of seeing peace signed with the ELN before the end of that year. He was referring to the agenda agreed upon in the previous round of talks in Mexico, which includes the following items: participation of society in peace, democracy for peace, transformations for peace, victims, end of the armed conflict, and execution of the agreements.
Despite the ceasefire, there are still sensitive issues that remain unresolved, such as the illegal means of financing the armed group. In statements to the press, Pablo Beltrán clarified that kidnapping and extortion are not included among the actions covered by the ceasefire. If they take one spoon from you, they have to give you another,” he said.
The ELN chief negotiator explained that 12 agreed offensive actions will be restricted as of July 6 and that until August 3 protocols should be agreed to cover financing actions.
A third point of the so-called Cuba Agreement establishes a Fourth Cycle of the Dialogue Table, in Venezuela, between August 14 and September 4, to review the actual progress of the current understanding.
The agreement also contemplates the creation of a National Participation Committee to convene since July 25.
Both parties also agreed to activate a communication channel between them, plus the drafting of pending protocols, the beginning of educational activities, and the implementation of monitoring and verification mechanisms for the ceasefire.
The ELN, founded in 1964, had some 6,000 fighters in 2022, according to Colombian authorities, and is considered the oldest active guerrilla group in Latin America. Dialogue with the ELN was initiated in March 2016 by the administration of Juan Manuel Santos and after four cycles of negotiations in Quito, the talks moved to Cuba after the Ecuadorian government withdrew from the process. The talks were suspended in January 2019 by then-President Ivan Duque, following a rebel attack on a police academy.
Petro's government opened a second round of negotiations with the ELN in Mexico last February, and since May 2 the third round has been in session in Havana.
Cuba hosted, in 2016, the signing of a peace and political reintegration agreement between the Santos government and the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), after a long negotiation in the Cuban capital.