Colombian rebel group ELN confirmed this afternoon its intention to enter into talks with President Juan Manuel Santos´ government.
The ELN revealed, via a letter posted on its website, that a delegation has been agreed and is set to be dispatched for “exploratory talks” with the government.
In the letter, the guerrilla group suggested it was responding to the calls from the government the FARC, Colombian society, and the international community to enter into peace dialogues.
“We reaffirm that the ELN is committed to a political solution, which we understand to mean a collective nation building through a social democratic, political, economic and cultural process to deliver the changes that the country needs.”
The ELN´s communique comes just three days before the official start of the government and the FARC peace negotiations.
The dialogues will take place in Havana and will follow the pre-agreed agenda which covers the controversial issue land reform. Something the ELN believes “requires the participation of the peasant movements” to be resolved.
The ELN is pushing for “a bilateral ceasefire while talks take place”, something the FARC – and Marcha Patriotica leader, Piedad Córdoba – have also campaigned on.
According to the guerrillas:
“The creation of a non-confrontational environment could help build confidence and conditions for society to participate in a more active and leading role, this is a responsibility of the government and the insurgents.”
This is something Santos´government has refused to consider, citing the fiasco of the previous peace talks over ten years ago in Caguán, when the FARC were handed a demilitarized zone while negotiations progressed. The FARC abused the government´s good will, using it as an opportunity to regroup and rebuild their troops.
The ELN was formed in 1965 along similar lines to the Marxist ideology of the FARC. At their height in the early 1990s, the group had around 4,000 troops. Today that number is estimated to be around 1,500. The ELN, like the FARC, is engaged in illegal drug trafficking.