The last Colombian guerrilla has sat down again at the negotiating table, this time with delegates of President Gustavo Petro | The meeting in Caracas is part of an ambitious government roadmap to achieve “total peace” in the country
The Hotel Humboldta luxury enclave enjoyed by the Venezuelan elite on the Ávila hill in Caracas, this Monday housed delegations from the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last guerrilla, of Guevarist origin, who has about 3,000 men in the whole country. The meeting that has made it possible to resume peace negotiations represents one of the President’s biggest political bets Gustavo Petro. Its realization in the Venezuelan capital is not a minor matter. Nicolás Maduro, by virtue of his well-oiled relations with the insurgency, is a fundamental actor in this process that has failed on different occasions. The governments of César Gaviria, Ernesto Samper, Andrés Pastrana, Álvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos have already tried without success. Venezuela and Colombia have normalized their ties a few weeks ago. In another order, the Caracas event is part of an ambitious government roadmap to achieve the “full peace” in the country, and which includes in other stages the far-right paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
The importance that Petro assigns to the negotiations is reflected in the members of the government delegation: Otty Patiño, a former M-19 guerrilla, the armed group to which the current president belonged, senators Iván Cepeda and María José Pizarro. Nor was it by chance that Patiño himself recalled the agreement that 37 years ago allowed the M-19 to lay down its arms and rejoin political life. Petro’s own career is eloquent proof of his effects. “That was a precarious peace but it opened the doors for an institution that proclaimed the Social State of Law. It indicated a path and a mandate that has not yet been fully fulfilled by successive governments,” said the head of the Colombian State negotiators . In turn, he valued the “responsible attitude, serious, friendly and fully willing to reach, this time, a real peace”, by the guerrillas.
The opinion of the ELN
Pablo Beltrán, head of the ELN negotiation, ratified his willingness to find this time “common points and build a nation in peace and equity”. For Beltran, the presence of Petro in the Nariño Palace, since the middle of the year, is not a minor matter. “We understand the moment of change that Colombia lives, in the streets and at the polls, and that demands that there be fundamental changes. We understand that moment and we take responsibility.” He assured in turn that the ELN does not want seats in Congress as a bargaining chip, as has happened in the peace agreement with the FARC. “We do not need them.” However, he remarked He assured that the table set up should be “an instrument of that wave of changes that society is asking for, and we hope not to fail.” The pending work “is of reconciliationto rediscover common ground, to build a nation in peace and equity”.
For his part, he High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda expressed his confidence in a successful end to these talks “that will lead us to overcome dynamics of death, death in the word, death in the destruction of the other to build a nation where we all fit.” Rueda, in turn, highlighted the diversity of the government delegation. “In this scenario of dialogue, we are all going to participate. There are retired and active military who have participated in this process and there are also sectors of the economy that are important for the country, environmental sectors, women’s expressions and human rights sectors.” Army Colonel Álvaro Matallana and Navy Admiral Orlando Romero are part of the entourage. The sailor played an important role in the peace process that led the FARC to abandon the armed struggle in 2016. Representatives of right-wing forces, such as José Félix Lafaurie, also participate.
The Venezuelan factor
According to the Bogota newspaper The viewer, The path that must lead to the agreement must overcome several obstacles resulting from the rupture of diplomatic and consular relations between the two countries under the administration of Iván Duque, who adhered to the policy of donald trump to remove Maduro from power. This absence of channels constituted “fertile ground for the growth of the actions of criminal actors in the border area and the consolidation of the presence of Colombian irregular actors in Venezuela, with different levels of consent from Chavismo.” In the case of the ELN, these last four years “have been beneficial” for that formation, to the point of having ensured that 40% of its men in arms today are on that side of the border line and made up of insurgents of nationality. Venezuelan. That is the reason for the importance of the Miraflores Palace in these negotiations.
In statements to the portal La silla vacía, Carlos Velandia, a former member of the ELN leadership and negotiator for that guerrilla in the failed talks with the Gaviria government, I trust in the possibility of an agreement because the armed conflict “agonizes“, the insurgency cannot grow and better conditions have been created to resolve the situation on the basis of a” negotiated political solution & rdquor ;.