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A new ceasefire between Colombian Government and ELN?
While civil society demands a new ceasefire, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspends the peace negotiations
Colombia Informa, the Dawn News / Friday 12 January 2018
Image Credit: Colombia Informa

Today in the early morning the Bilateral, Temporary, National Ceasefire that was agreed upon in September 2017 between the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army -ELN- ended. While the ELN affirmed this morning that “they are convinced about the necessity for a bilateral ceasefire, they clarify that it will not be a continuation. It must be a new one, with new conditions”; President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the suspension of the negotiations.

Both sides had declared that the Fifth Cycle of Talks in Quito, Ecuador would begin this Monday January 8. There they would evaluate the possible continuation of the Ceasefire analysing the positive and negative of this period of lowering the weapons. However, the beginning of said Cycle was postponed and the Government now has left the negotiating table feeling offended because an organization in war acts like an organization in war.

In a televised transmission, Santos affirmed today that “The National Government deplores the decision of the ELN to resume terrorist attacks against the civilian population, the Armed Forces and infrastructure. The National Government was always willing to prolong the cease fire with this organization and negotiate a new one. We made this clear a couple of weeks ago and we reiterated it in the last couple of days, to respond affirmatively to the request of the Episcopal Conference, the United Nations, the partner countries, and the hundreds of organizations of civil society.

The ELN published a declaration where they called to “Agree on a new ceasefire”. The Peace Talks Delegation affirmed that:

“The bilateral, temporary, national ceasefire that was agreed upon to last 101 days, concluded yesterday at midnight. Its purpose of improving the humanitarian situation of the population was partially reached due to the attitude of the regime; from our side we fulfilled the objectives of the ceasefire.

The incidents that occured today in the east of Colombia, happened in the midst of a complex situation of conflict that the country is suffering from; despite this, the course of the conversations should not be altered to achieve a political solution to the conflict.

The agreement anticipates that in this Fifth cycle of conversations the evaluation of the recently ended ceasefire would be discussed, to highlight its achievements and resolve the problems that it dealt with.

This new cycle should also deploy the National Dialogue planned within the First Point of the Agenda, about participation of the society to achieve peace.

The negotiation table made a qualitative leap in developing the conversations in the midst of a ceasefire, which maintains our expressed decision to give continuity to this achievement, to be able to agree upon a new ceasefire, that overcomes the difficulties of the prior.

We recognize the accompaniment that these conversations have had and the bilateral ceasefire, especially by the organizations who participate in the Social Oversight Committee, the Episcopal Conference, the Mission of the Security Council of the UN, the guarantor countries, and the group of supporting, accompanying and cooperating countries; we ask all of you to maintain your support to this negotiation table and its efforts of peace.”

It is important to point out that in a report prepared by more than 75 organizations of human rights defenders that participated in the oversight to the fulfillment of the Ceasefire, they pointed out that during the period between October 1 (the day that the Ceasefire began) and November 20 the violence against the civilian population and the social leaders increased.

During said period there were 299 individual victims (of which 45 were homicides, 96 injured people, 35 victims of individual threats and 25 collective threats). In terms of the aggressors , the investigation confirmed that the State had responsibility in 73% of the victims, unknown authors in 17%, paramilitaries in 8% and the ELN in 1%.

The publication of this report left out (do to time) incidents like what happened in Magüí Payán, Nariño, which would have changed those numbers. However, without a doubt, the Government did not comply during the agreed upon period with the fundamental objective of the Ceasefire: guaranteeing the humanitarian conditions in the communities that made the participation in the same construction of peace possible. Just to cite some data, in the month of December there was a social leader assassinated every three days. At the same time, during this period the warlike treatment to the social protest increased, a fundamental right of all citizens.

The Agenda of Negotiations between the ELN and the Government continues to be messy. In Point 1, that has to do with the participation of the society in the construction of Peace, after more than a year and a half it has not been settled because the Government affirms that the negotiation should not be inclusive of any other social actor that is not the two actors and the guerrilla refuses to have failed dialogues far from Colombia.

The ELN says that it has the intention to continue negotiating and to agree on another ceasefire but guaranteeing that the mechanisms that they create will fulfill the objective of peace. Meanwhile, Santos suspends the negotiations. Hopefully the President will do justice to his Nobel Peace Prize.