The Colombian government and the South American country’s largest remaining guerrilla group are set to resume peace talks, breaking a roughly four-year hiatus in which the rebels expanded the territory where they operate.
Caracas, Venezuela — The Colombian government and the South American country’s largest remaining guerrilla group were due to resume peace talks on Monday, breaking a roughly four-year hiatus in which the rebels expanded the territory where they operate.
Neighboring Venezuela, whose government resumed diplomatic relations with Colombia only a few months ago, hosts representatives of the National Liberation Army and the government of President Gustavo Petro. The talks in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, come more than a month after the rebels and Petro’s government announced the resumption of talks.
The National Liberation Army, commonly referred to by its Spanish acronym ELN, was founded in the 1960s by students, labor leaders and priests inspired by the Cuban revolution. The group is believed to have around 4,000 fighters in Colombia and also has a presence in Venezuela, where it operates illegal gold mines and drug trafficking routes.
The organization became Colombia’s largest guerrilla group after a 2016 peace accord disbanded the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. Since the signing of the historic agreement, the ELN has increased its activities in the territories formerly under the control of the FARC.
The group is known for organizing kidnappings for ransom and attacks on oil infrastructure and has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Diplomats from Venezuela, Cuba and Norway will attend the negotiations, while representatives from Chile and Spain will observe them. Previous negotiations, some of which date back to the 1990s, have failed.
Petro – Colombia’s first leftist president and himself a former rebel – is seeking to resume negotiations as part of a broader peace effort in which his administration approaches armed groups, drug gangs and FARC dissidents . This is a significant reversal of strategy; his predecessor, President Iván Duque, suspended talks with the ELN after the rebels refused to stop attacking military targets.