Colombia: President Petro announces first agreement with ELN guerrillas

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ColombiaPresident Petro announces first agreement with ELN guerrillas

An agreement has been reached between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrillas for the return of indigenous refugees displaced in the west of the country.

Gustavo Petro, during a press conference in Bogota, November 15, 2022.

AFP

Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced on Saturday the conclusion of an agreement between his government and the ELN on the return of indigenous refugees displaced in the west of the country, the first since the opening of peace negotiations between Bogota and this guerrilla. .

“The first point of agreement that we reached with the ELN, barely a week after the start of negotiations, consists in allowing the people displaced by this organization to return” to their lands, said the left-wing president during a meeting. an official act in Dabeiba (north-west).

He did not specify the date of the return of these communities who had fled the territories they legally occupied in the regions of Choco (north-west) and Risaralda (center-west), because of violence between drug traffickers, paramilitary groups and guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last recognized guerrilla in Colombia.

“Pledges of trust”

Negotiations with the ELN, interrupted in 2019 by the previous government in response to an attack that killed 22 people, were reopened by President Petro, the first left-wing president in Colombia’s history, who came to power in August . Representatives of the government and the ELN began these new discussions on November 21 in Venezuela.

This agreement should benefit a community which has organized several occupations of various parks in Bogota since the end of 2020, by way of protests, and which have resulted in violent clashes with the police. The government and the ELN did not agree on a ceasefire, but agreed in October to “resume all agreements and progress made since the signing of the agenda” of March 30, 2016.

In recent weeks, the two parties have given each other “pledges of confidence” with, in particular, the release of prisoners or the reduction of operations on the ground. After the talks were suspended, the ELN’s membership rose from 1,800 to 2,500 members, according to official estimates.

Founded in 1964 by trade unionists and students who sympathized with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Cuban revolution, the ELN remains to this day the last constituted guerrilla group still active in Colombia, while the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC) signed a peace accord in 2016.

(AFP)

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