Colombia withdraws peace negotiators with ELN in Cuba

By Lokman Ilhan

BOGOTA, Colombia

Colombia announced that it withdrew its representatives from peace negotiations with the country’s last remaining major rebel group that is taking place in Cuba.

During a news conference at the presidential palace in Bogota, Miguel Ceballos, the High Commissioner for Peace, Legality and Coexistence, said the decision was unrelated with negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group already on pause, but a “completely administrative” one.

“The representatives, authorized by the National Government at the ELN table, had ended their contract on Aug. 3 by decision of the previous administration [former president Juan Manuel Santos],” Ceballos said.

He said, “It is not a new decision, it is a purely administrative procedure with which this designation is closed to the representatives, as well as to the members of the Technical Committee that participated in the ceasefire discussions.”

Ceballos said the negotiations would resume and the official spokesmen be appointed when the ELN puts aside criminal activities and releases all the kidnapped people in their power.

This move of the current Colombian President Ivan Duque’s government was learned a few hours after ELN confirmed the release of a 15-year-old girl in western Choco Department.

The girl was abducted in early September for allegedly being a collaborator of the Colombian army.

Although the guerrilla handed over nine people to the authorities so far this month, it is believed that it still holds more than 10 hostages.

The peace negotiations of the Colombian government with the ELN began in Quito, Ecuador in February, 2017 and later moved to Cuba.

The last round of talks ended on Aug. 1, during the last days of Santos’ presidency.

*Maria Paula Trivino contributed to this story.