Colombian government holds another meeting with ELN splinter group that clouded dialogues

Colombian government holds another meeting with ELN splinter group that clouded dialogues
Colombian government holds another meeting with ELN splinter group that clouded dialogues

Bogotá, Jul 8 (EFE).- The Colombian government held another meeting in the department of Nariño, in the southwest of the country, with communities and the Southern Communal Front, an alleged split from the National Liberation Army (ELN) that has caused problems and the freezing of peace negotiations with that guerrilla group.

The so-called ‘Broad Meeting for the De-escalation of Violence and Territorial Transformation for Peace in Nariño’ was held this weekend, convened by the Government of Nariño, indigenous mayors and governors, and the Councilor for Peace, Otty Patiño, according to what his office reported on Monday.

The event was also attended “as guests” by delegates from the Comuneros del Sur, with the aim, according to the Office of the Commissioner for Peace (OCCP), of “deepening the territorialization of peace and developing actions that dignify the lives of people in this area of ​​the country.”

“During the dialogue with representatives of the armed group Frente Comuneros del Sur, they reiterated their willingness to de-escalate the violence and contribute to territorial transformation for peace,” the report added.

The government, for its part, presented a plan with three axes: to establish five working groups (for anti-personnel mines; return of displaced persons; care for recruited minors; cases of missing persons, and strengthening of local authorities); to work on territorial transformations and, finally, to open the transition of the group members “towards a condition of full citizenship.”

“This implies the suspension of hostilities against the population and the clearing not only of the physical territories through demining, but also the search for and recognition of missing persons, as well as a spiritual cleansing. All of this must be addressed in the working groups to advance in this process,” said Patiño.

A first meeting months ago between the Government, the governor of Nariño, Luis Alfonso Escobar, and the Frente Comuneros del Sur, caused discontent in the national command of the ELN.

For this reason, there have been no formal rounds of dialogue with the Government since January – although meetings have been held and the first point of the peace agenda was even signed – and negotiations are at a standstill despite the fact that there are pressing issues to be resolved, such as the renewal of the bilateral ceasefire that expires on August 3.

The ELN wants a national negotiation led by its negotiating team and not regional approaches with fronts or groups that supposedly claim to have belonged to that guerrilla group.

For this reason, the Government’s own chief negotiator, Vera Grabe, asked in a letter a few weeks ago to the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, to clarify who is negotiating with the ELN: if there is a national negotiation, which is the one they are leading; if it will now be regional with the first example in Nariño, or if they will be parallel processes, which is what the guerrillas do not want.

“If there is a peace process in a territory and a structure of a group with which negotiations are taking place nationally, what is the attitude to adopt? What we have asked for, and the president has acted in this way, is to clearly separate the two levels and give priority to the National Roundtable. There cannot be parallel negotiations with a single organization on two levels, that would be schizophrenic,” said Senator Iván Cepeda, a member of the government delegation, in a recent interview with EFE.

According to Cepeda, the national dialogue table is “the only decision-making body” and the Nariño issue “is part of a social dialogue that seeks to bring about transformations in the territories” and that “will end in the sense that it becomes a parallel process that threatens, challenges or weakens the national process.” EFE

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