Members of the delegation of the Colombian guerrilla ELN on May 10, 2018 in Havana, Cuba, where they negotiate a peace agreement with the government of Juan Manuel Santos.
The guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) will stop its military activities during the weekend of June 17, when the presidential ballot is held in Colombia, a key election for the continuity of peace negotiations.
„We have decided to decree a new suspension of our military operations from 0 o’clock on Friday 15 June until 24 o’clock on Tuesday 19 June“ to facilitate citizen participation in the elections, said the ELN in „Insurrection“, magazine that publishes online.
The last active guerrilla recognized by the Colombian government said that this decision is adopted while they advance in the dialogues and the „zero hour of the new bilateral cease-fire“ is established. In May, they had already taken the same measure during the first electoral round.
The Colombian government and the ELN resumed their talks at the beginning of last month in Havana with a view to a peace agreement, which will not be signed during the administration of outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos.
– Difficulties for agreement –
On June 17, Colombia will choose Santos‘ successor in a historic and polarized ballot.
The commander of the Colombian guerrilla ELN for the peace talks, Pablo Beltrán, on May 28, 2018 in Havana, Cuba.
The favorite is right-winger Ivan Duque, the son-in-law of former president Álvaro Uribe and opposed to the way in which he negotiates with the guerrillas. He has even proposed to review the peace agreement that the government signed in 2016 with the powerful FARC communist guerrilla.
For the ELN, with 1,500 combatants, Duque „insists on smashing peace, disrupting agreements for a peaceful solution to the conflict“ already signed by Santos.
The other candidate who went to the ballot is the ex-guerrilla and ex-mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro, 58, with a leftist force that opens up greater possibilities of negotiation with the ELN.
„Independent of the result of June 17, Colombia gains by consolidating an alternative political force dedicated to promoting democratization and peace,“ says this organization born in the 1960s under the influence of the Cuban revolution.
President Santos has said that he hopes to sign a framework agreement that feels the basis for the process to continue with his successor and be respected.
„They gave us an instruction: It is forbidden to get up from the table, if Mr. Duque wins, because he will find us there, at the table, that he will name his delegation and we will continue,“ said the head of the ELN’s negotiating mission in Havana recently. Pablo Beltrán.
– With a view to the sixth cycle –
The fifth cycle of peace talks in Havana aims to achieve a truce and find a mechanism for citizens to participate in the peace process, a constant demand of the rebel group. This cycle should end on June 12.
„The government only needs the political will to make these two agreements concrete,“ the ELN estimated.
Both parties are willing to agree on a ceasefire better than they achieved in October 2017 and lasted 101 days, until January 2018, amid criticism of breaches.
The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos (center) in Bogotá, accompanied by the commissioners in the peace negotiations with the ELN guerrilla.
The sixth cycle of talks will begin on June 20, also in the Cuban capital.
The peace negotiations between the parties took place in Quito since February 2017, but Ecuador was marginalized as the seat and guarantor on April 20 after unusual attacks and kidnappings carried out by dissidents of the FARC disbanded in its territory. Now Cuba took the post.
The Caribbean island, which is also the guarantor of the process, hosted peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for four years, which culminated at the end of 2016.
Cuba has the necessary requirements for the negotiations to flow: experience in the subject, geographical proximity, confidentiality and security, characteristics that had already been highlighted by both the government and the FARC during their dialogues.