To talk or not to talk?

ELN Colombia
Talks between the government and Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, are set to begin january 12.

After months of stop-starting, government and ELN will sit down in Quito.


Barring any further last-minute maneuvers, the government has announced it will sit down face-to-face with the country’s second largest guerrilla organisation, the National Liberation Army (ELN) on Thursday,  January 12.  The lead government negotiator at the talks, which will be held in the capital of Ecuador, is Juan Camilo Restrepo; a lawyer and economist who has served as a minister in Santos’s government. 

The announcement followed a number of tense months and false starts. There have already been two similar announcements, most recently promising that talks would start in October. However, the government – which has consistently refused to hold formal talks until the ELN released kidnapping victims – pulled out at the last minute due to a row over the kidnapped ex-congressman, Odin Sánchez.

Restrepo will be joined at the table by former Environment Minister Luz Helena Sarmiento, retired major general Eduardo Herrera Berbel, Rosario University professor Alberto Fergusson, conflict expert and former presidential adviser Jaime Avendaño and journalist and former director of Confidencial Colombia, María Alejandra Villamizar. The main objective of the meeting will be to firm up the details of the much awaited formal talks.

It is not clear exactly how many members are in the ELN, but some experts estimate that membership totals around 1,500.


By Laura Sharkey