President Santos pursues new truce deal with ELN

By Jess Rapp January 22, 2018

On Sunday, President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Twitter that he has sent his chief negotiator, Gustavo Bell, back to Quito, Ecuador, to seek a new truce with the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Despite the recent outbreak in conflict between military forces and the ELN, President Santos is willing “to explore the possibility a new ceasefire that will allow peace talks with the ELN to continue.”

The President has made it clear that his decision to re-open negotiations was largely due to encouragement from the UN. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had met with President Santos earlier this month in Bogota to discuss the issue.

The Colombian government has been in talks with the ELN since February last year, negotiating the end of the conflict that has lasted for more than half a century. However, recent negotiations have been suspended since January 10 due to a series of attacks launched by the ELN merely hours after their 102-day ceasefire ended.

In the past weeks, the ELN has attacked armed forces and oil pipelines, with one oil worker kidnapped, and at least four soldiers killed.

The resource centre for conflict analysis (CERAC) believe the ELN have reached the same level of activity this month that they have been known for since the start of negotiations last year.

President Santos had originally declared these ELN attacks “deplorable”, ordering the army to “act with decisiveness, to respond to this aggression and to protect the life and honour of Colombians.” However, international pressure and the UN’s involvement have brought peace negotiations back to the table.

The ELN have also released a statement indicating that they too are willing to resume peace talks with the government and discuss “all pending issues.”

President Santos, who will leave office in August, is eager to finally put an end to this unrest and hopes to reach a peace agreement similar to the one that was signed with the FARC in November 2016.