Colombia Gov't, Rebels OK Cease-Fire 06/10 08:16
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Colombia's government and its largest remaining
guerrilla group agreed Friday to a six-month cease-fire at talks in Cuba, in
the latest attempt to resolve a conflict dating back to the 1960s.
The government and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, announced the
accord at a ceremony in Havana attended by Colombian President Gustavo Petro,
top guerrilla commander Antonio Garca and Cuban officials. The cease-fire
takes effect in phases, goes fully into effect in August and then lasts for six
"This effort to look for peace is a beacon of hope that conflicts can be
resolved politically and diplomatically," top rebel negotiator Pablo Beltrn
said at the ceremony.
The talks originally were scheduled to conclude with an official ceremony on
Thursday, but were postponed as the parties asked for additional time to work
on final details. Petro traveled to the island for the ceremony, saying it
could herald an "era of peace" in Colombia.
The accord reached Friday also calls for the formation of a broadly
representative national committee by late July to discuss a lasting peace.
"You have here proposed a bilateral agreement, and I agree with that, but
Colombian society has to be able debate it, and to participate," Petro said
during the ceremony.
Garca, the rebel commander, said his group was "very confident" in the
accord, though he characterized it as "procedural" and not yet the
"substantial" kind needed "for Colombia to change."
Negotiations between the sides had resumed in August, after being terminated
in 2019 when the rebels set off a car bomb at a police academy in Bogota
killing 21 people.
Following that incident, the government of then-President Ivn Duque
(2018-2022) issued arrest warrants for ELN leaders in Cuba for the peace
negotiations. But Cuba refused to extradite them, arguing that doing so would
compromise its status as a neutral nation in the conflict and break with
Talks relaunched in November shortly after Petro was elected as Colombia's
first leftist president.
Petro has pushed for what he calls a "total peace" that would demobilize all
of the country's remaining rebel groups as well as its drug trafficking gangs.
He has questioned whether senior ELN leaders have full control of a younger
generation of commanders who he has suggested are focused more on the illegal
drug trade than on political goals.
The ELN was founded in the 1960s by union leaders, students and priests
inspired by the Cuban revolution. It is Colombia's largest remaining rebel
group and has been notoriously difficult for previous Colombian governments to
In 2016, Colombia's government signed a peace dea l with the larger FARC
group that ended five decades of conflict in which an estimated 260,000 people
But violence has continued to affect rural pockets of the country where the
ELN has been active, along with FARC holdout groups and drug trafficking gangs.
Colombian authorities have accused the ELN of involvement in the drug
trafficking, but the group's top leaders have denied that.