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Published On: Tue, Jan 9th, 2018

Tensions rise over uncertainties about ceasefire between Colombian State and ELN

nsnbc : With less than 24 hours before the ceasefire between the Colombian government and the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) expires, it is still uncertain whether hostilities will resume on Wednesday or if the parties will renew the bilateral ceasefire while pace negotiations continue.

ELN guerrilla (archives)

ELN guerrilla (archives)

The bilateral ceasefire between the ELN, Colombia’s officially last standing leftist guerrilla, and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos expires on Wednesday, January 10. ELN and government negotiators held a meeting on Monday to negotiate a renewal of the ceasefire that came into effect in October 2017 during the visit of Pope Benedict to a number of Latin American countries. By Tuesday, January 9 there hadn’t yet been issued a joint statement about the renewal, prompting uncertainties about the ceasefire and the peace process despite cautious optimism and posturing on both sides.

Citing at least 10 incidents and violations per month since October, the National Liberation Army (ELN) called for a new bilateral ceasefire instead of a renewal of the one that expires on Wednesday. President Juan Manuel Santos, for his part, said that his administration is “more than willing to extend the ceasefire with the ELN and to renegotiate the conditions of a new truce”. However, both sides have also stressed that they are prepared to resume hostilities if no new agreement is reached before midnight and time is running out.

The United Nations Mission in Colombia which is monitoring the ceasefire has urged the parties to avoid renewed violence and bloodshed. The UN mission underpinned that the bilateral ceasefire has – despite its problems – resulted in major improvements for non-combatant civilians. The call for the renewal of the ceasefire is also being supported by many civil society organizations including farmers organizations, minority groups, as well as victims of the more than 50-year-long civil war.

On Monday, the administration of President Santos sent a new negotiation team headed by former Vice-President Gustavo Bell after the resignation of former Agriculture Minister and Conservative Party member Juan Camilo Restrepo. The change of government chief negotiator comes amidst lack of confidence and the ELN’s complaints about alleged cooperation and coordination between the right-wing neo-paramilitary AGC and government forces in western Colombia. Both security forces and ELN guerrillas are investigated for massacres that took place during the ceasefire. The fact that Colombia is headed toward presidential elections is not exactly conducive of peace talks either.

CH/L & A/N – nsnbc 09.01.2018

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