Oct 11, 2022 - World

Colombia to restart peace talks with last remaining major rebel group

Antonio García, ELN commander, and Danilo Rueda, Colombia’s Commissioner for Peace, shake hands after signing an agreement to begin peace talks

ELN commander Antonio García, left, and Danilo Rueda, Colombia’s commissioner for peace, shake hands on Oct. 4. Photo: Yuri Cortéz/AFP via Getty Images

Colombian officials are restarting peace talks with the last remaining major guerrilla force in the country.

Driving the news: Last week, the government of President Gustavo Petro and leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) finalized an agreement to begin negotiations in November.

  • Cuba, Venezuela and Norway will serve as observers and mediators.
  • Petro also recently announced that nine other armed groups have agreed to ceasefires and that the government will suspend aerial bombings.

Why it matters: Negotiations could help Colombia end over 50 years of internal violence that has left almost half a million people dead, 120,000 missing and millions displaced.

  • Petro, once a rebel with the defunct M-19 guerrilla movement, says achieving “total peace” is a priority of his government.
  • He’s said that will require “reconceptualizing” and reforming the armed forces, which for decades have almost exclusively been fighting rebel groups.

What they’re saying: “There’s a general optimism about the potential” from negotiations, Elizabeth Dickinson, an analyst for the nonprofit International Crisis Group, tells Axios Latino.

  • “If the military doesn’t have to fight the ELN, technically they’ll have more resources to fight other groups that don’t comply [with the ceasefires]” and to fight issues like deforestation and human trafficking, she adds.

Between the lines: Prior negotiation attempts with the ELN ended in 2018, following car bombings blamed on the guerrilla forces.

  • New negotiations are likely to take a long time, says Dickinson, who is based in Bogotá.

Background: Colombia’s government and the FARC, previously the largest guerrilla force, came to a historic agreement almost six years ago.

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