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Published On: Tue, Sep 5th, 2017

Colombian government and ELN agree on bilateral ceasefire ahead of papal visit

nsnbc : The Colombian government and the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), on Monday, reached an agreement on the implementation of a bilateral ceasefire starting October 1.

Colombia_ELN_Bilateral ceasefire_Sep 2017Just 48 hours ahead of the visit of Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the ELN confirmed that it had reached a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Colombian government.

The ceasefire will come into effect on October 1. In June this year negotiators for the ELN and the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos agreed to hold contiguous peace talks in the Ecuadorian capital Quito with the goal to achieve a bilateral ceasefire agreement ahead of the papal visit to Colombia in September.

The bilateral ceasefire marks a suspension of more than 50 years of armed conflict between the Colombian state and the national Liberation Army (ELN).

Pablo Beltran_ELN_Quito_Euador_Ceasefire_Sep 2017The ELN was founded in 1964 by a group of Catholic priests. Inspired in part by the Cuban revolution and extreme repression in Colombia, its revolutionary philosophy, politics and organizational forms are rooted in liberation theology, Marxism, and to some degree in Anarchio-Syndicalism.

The ELN used its Twitter account to announce the bilateral ceasefire under the motto “Yes we can”.

The ceasefire agreement is expected to last until January 12, 2018  and may be extended. The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN launched peace talks in February 2017 after having reached an agreement on the format and modalities of the peace talks in March 2016. President Juan Manuel Santos explained:

“The ceasefire will have an initial validity of 102 days, i.e. it will go until January 12 next year and will be renewed as long as it is met with progress in negotiations along with other points.”

Santos added that his administration prioritizes the protection of Colombia’s citizens, to end kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines, and other hostilities against the population. The ELN, for its part, commented Twitter:

“We have said that the visit of Pope Francis should be an extra motivation to accelerate the search for agreements, which have been the main target communities that suffer the unfortunate consequences of the conflict”.

As part of the ceasefire, the government reportedly also agreed to improve the conditions of jailed ELN guerrilla and to boost the protection of  political, grassroots and activist leaders. There has been noticed a marked and alarming increase of assassinations and violence against leftist political and grassroots leaders and activists since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) demobilized and disarmed this year.

CH/L & A/N – nsnbc 05.09.2017

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