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Colombia and ELN guerrillas announce new peace talks

Colombia’s government and a delegation from the National Liberation Army (ELN) leftist guerrillas announced on Tuesday they would next month restart peace talks suspended since 2019. ELN commander Antonio Garcia read out a statement in Caracas stating that the two parties would re-establish “the dialogue process after the first week of November 2022” with Venezuela, Cuba and Norway acting as guarantors for the talks. Dialogue started in 2016 under ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who signed a peace treaty with the larger Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group that subsequently lay down its weapons and created a political party. But those were called off in 2019 by conservative then-president Ivan Duque following a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that left 22 people dead. President Gustavo Petro, who in August became Colombia’s first ever leftist leader, has vowed to take a less bellicose approach to seeking an end to the violence wrought by armed groups, including both leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Reaching out to the ELN was part of his “total peace” policy. The resumption of talks will kick-start the “agreements and progress made since the signing of the (peace) agenda on March 30, 2016,” said Garcia. Talks will be hosted by Venezuela, Cuba and Norway on a rotating basis. The ELN peace talks delegation spent four years based in Cuba as they had been barred from returning to Colombia by the previous government. They left Cuba for Venezuela on October 2 to begin the new talks promised by Petro, himself a former urban guerrilla. The ELN is the last recognized rebel group operating in Colombia, although FARC dissidents that refused to sign the 2016 peace deal remain active. The largest FARC dissident splinter group said last month they were prepared to halt attacks against security forces to help ceasefire talks.

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