Gustavo Petro suspends arrest warrants against ELN delegates in Cuba

Gustavo Petro suspends arrest warrants against ELN delegates in Cuba

Colombian President Gustavo Petro at a security council in southern Bolívar this Saturday, August 20.Colombian President Gustavo Petro at a security council in southern Bolívar this Saturday, August 20. Presidency of Colombia

The Colombian government is taking another step to resume talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN). President Gustavo Petro has announced that he has approved the suspension of the arrest and extradition orders against the guerrillas’ negotiators who remained in Havana. “I would like to announce that by decree signed yesterday, I have authorized the restoration of the protocols, once again allowing the negotiators to reconnect with their organization and suspend the detention and extradition orders for these negotiators so that they can dialogue with the ELN .” , assured the President this Saturday at the end of a security council in the municipality of San Pablo, Bolívar.

The President’s announcement cites a further step towards reopening the trial with this guerrilla, which was suspended under the government of Iván Duque in 2019. Last week, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva and Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda announced that the Petro executive would seek legal mechanisms to speed up the resumption of dialogues, which had left the ELN negotiators in limbo after their dissolution four years ago . In addition to ignoring established protocols in the event of a breach, Duque ordered the capture of the guerrilla leaders, and they have remained trapped on the island ever since.

The decision communicated by President Petro this Saturday establishes the resumption of dialogue with this organization and allows those in Cuba to return to Colombia to meet with the leadership, as a fundamental step in restoring a negotiating table.

Since announcing the willingness of both parties to resume talks last week, the ELN has released 15 people in two actions that the government has highlighted as a sign of the armed group’s interest in moving forward with a process that will allow a peace deal to be reached. Commissioner Danilo Rueda assured from Havana that the state would also look for a way to demonstrate commitment in the same direction. “The ELN will take the necessary steps to resume talks. Both parties agree that the process of dialogue must begin in order to demonstrate the true will of the Colombian government and the ELN to strive for a total, stable, lasting and sustainable peace,” said Rueda from Cuba.

Talks with the Army of National Liberation, initially based in Quito, were moved to Havana in 2018 but suspended a few months after Iván Duque took office in 2019, following a brutal attack by this guerrilla on a police academy in Bogotá, in which about twenty People died and several were injured. The then-president decided to end any trial with the armed organization and ordered the arrest of the guerrilla leaders who remained in Cuba as part of the trial initiated with the government of Juan Manuel Santos. In January 2021, after several complaints from Duque, the Donald Trump administration labeled Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Petro’s coming to power has made it possible to move forward on two of the issues that have hampered the resumption of talks with the ELN. The first occurred during a government delegation’s visit to Havana a week ago, during which the Colombian state demanded an end to the United States government’s designation of Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism. “Colombia rejects the designation as a sponsor of terrorism in an attempt to disregard Cuba’s commitment to peace,” Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva said. The second came this Saturday with the suspension of arrest warrants for the guerrilla leaders remaining on the island. Both steps should be necessary in order to consider a path to peace with the last active guerrillas in Colombia.

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