Colombian government rejects latest ELN ceasefire proposal

The Colombian government has rejected a new 90-day ceasefire proposal from the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla movement. The ELN insurgency began in the 1960s and several attempts to broker a peace process have proven unsuccessful. The latest proposal comes after the United Nations called for a global ceasefire to alleviate the coronavirus pandemic.

Since President Iván Duque took office in August 2018, the ELN has regularly proposed to reinitiate peace talks which it had been conducting with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos. The ELN previously implemented a unilateral ceasefire in April, in the early stages of Colombia’s lockdown, and appealed to the Colombian state and other armed groups to reciprocate. However, this was also rejected and the ceasefire expired.

Opposition political parties, the UN Verification Mission and social organisations, including trade unions and human rights groups, have repeatedly urged the Duque government to hold talks with the ELN aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement to end the conflict. ELN negotiators have remained in Havana, Cuba, since the last round of talks ended in 2018 (Havana was also the site of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC which led to the 2016 peace agreement).

The situation has been complicated further by the Colombian government’s support for the US State Department’s re-categorisation of Cuba as a country which ‘does not cooperate on terrorism’ after Cuba rejected Colombia’s demands to extradite ELN negotiators. The Duque government was widely criticised for its stance towards Cuba, which, alongside Norway, is one of the two guarantor countries to the Colombian peace process.

In response to Colombia’s support for the US position towards Cuba, JFC said that ‘the ongoing insistence of the Colombian government to pursue the extradition of the ELN peace negotiators in direct contradiction to signed protocols is putting at risk the very future of peace processes across the world.’