The return to the negotiating table is so far bearing fruit. Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced on Saturday, December 3, the conclusion of an agreement between his government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) on the return of indigenous refugees displaced in the west of the country.
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.
“The first point of agreement that we reached with the ELN, barely a week after the start of negotiations, consists in allowing the return of the peoples displaced by this organization” on their lands, said the Colombian president during 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 ELN guerrillas, the last recognized guerrilla in Colombia.
No ceasefire yet
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 “elenos” did not agree on a ceasefire, but agreed in October to “to resume all the agreements and the progress made since the signing of the agenda” of March 30, 2016. In recent weeks, both sides have shown “signs of trust” with, in particular, the release of prisoners or the reduction of operations in the field.
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.