Representatives of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) arrived in Havana, Cuba Monday to resume peace talks with the Colombian government with the aim of putting an end to an armed conflict that has lasted for more than half a century.
ELN: ‘We Must Persist in Looking for a Political Solution’
Cuba was chosen to host the peace talks after Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno ordered the foreign ministry to withdraw as the guarantor, which forced the ELN and the Colombian government to search for another country to host negotiations, which started in 2017.
Ecuador’s decision came after three Ecuadoreans were kidnapped and killed by an armed group in the northern border with Colombia with links to drug trafficking, but no known ties to the ELN.
The decision came at a fragile moment in ELN-Colombia peace talks. This January, after the first ceasefire agreement ended, peace talks were suspended by the Colombian government after alleged violent attacks by ELN forces resumed.
According to Colombia’s High Peace Commissioner Rodrigo Rivera reaching a “robust and verifiable ceasefire” and the creation of a mechanism for citizen participation are the goals for the fifth round of peace talks scheduled for this week.
At least five other countries expressed their willingness in hosting the talks.
Cuba has participated in the Colombian peace process before. It hosted the peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government, which resulted in the 2016 disarmament of FARC and its transition to political life as Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons.
Between December 2005 and August 2007 the island also hosted eight rounds of talks between the ELN and the government. According to Victor de Currea-Lugo, a professor at the National University of Colombia, Cuba’s experience in the Colombian peace process was an advantage and “guarantee of continuity.”
Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Norway, and Venezuela remain as guarantor countries for the negotiations.