The government of Gustavo Petro resumed peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia on Monday, November 21, at the Humboldt Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela, a process that was frozen during the term of Iván Duque for the attack on police school in 2019.
Petro asked President Nicolás Maduro that Venezuela be one of the guarantor countries -added to Norway and Cuba-. After resuming relations with the Caribbean country, the members of the ELN who remained in Cuba for four years they traveled to Venezuela in October, when preparations for the first cycle began.
Also read: Gustavo Petro’s 100 days in power: great reformist ambitions and some internal short circuits
What is the ELN?
The National Liberation Army is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla and, after the FARC, the most powerful. It was created by intellectuals in 1964 in the department of Santander, in San Vicente de Chucurí. Inspired by Marxist theory and the rise of the movement, these founders turned to Fidel Castro for funding and went to train in Cuba.
Unlike the FARC, works like a federation, each front in the country has autonomy, so decision-making is carried out through conciliation processes. After 2016, the year in which the FARC signed the peace agreement, the ELN he added territories to his poweralthough it has had to face other armed groups that have the same objective.
It had the militancy of Jesuit priests, which gave it a religious image in its origins. Currently, he gets involved with people and this has allowed them dabble in politics in some regions. The Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Colombian organization created in 1999 by businessmen, estimates that the ELN had more than 4,000 members in 2018.
This guerrilla obtains its financing through the commissions from drug traffickers and kidnapping.
Who are the negotiating teams?
Gustavo Petro summoned the uribista and conservative José Féliz Lafaurie, president of the Colombian Federation of Ranchers and member of the Centro Democrático party. Despite being recognized as a staunch opponent, the Colombian president wants his contribution to benefit the livestock sector.
The rest of the team is made up of Otty Patiño, co-founder of the M-19 guerrilla group, where Petro militated; left-wing senators Iván Cepeda and María José Pizarro; and, on the military side, retired Colonel Álvaro Matallana and Admiral Orlando Romero.
In the ELN team, are Eliécer Herlinto Chamorro, alias “Antonio García”, its leader since 2021; alias Pablo Beltrán, second commander; Víctor Orlando Cubides, alias “Aureliano Carbonell” or “Pablo Tejada”, recognized as one of the “intellectuals” of the guerrilla.
The other members are Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo Quinchía, alias “Pablito”; Rafael Sierra Granados, alias ‘Ramiro Vargas’, María Consuelo Tapias, Silvana Guerrero, Isabel Torres, Óscar Serrano, Vivian Henao, Ricardo Pérez, Cataleya Jiménez, Eduin Restrepo, Américo Trespalacios, Manuela Márquez, Mauricio Iguarán and Simón Babón. The Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant for all of them. so they could travel to Venezuela.
A new attempt for peace
The now former president Juan Manuel Santos He began one of the last episodes in the search for definitive peace with the ELN in 2016, but his successor, Iván Duque, put an end to this process in 2019 due to the attack.
Petro’s rise to power, according to experts, could lead to a cease-fire not only because he is a leftist leader, but also because of his guerrilla past. For its part, the participation of Venezuela not only means a new relationship between both governments; the ELN extended its operations to this territory since the 70sas revealed by a UN report.
Information from the BBC and AP.