GlobalColombian government and ELN agree to create humanitarian zones

Colombian government and ELN agree to create humanitarian zones

Delegates from the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army guerrillas closed a cycle of peace talks on Monday in which they agreed to alleviate the humanitarian situation in several of the areas hardest hit by the armed conflict in Colombia.

The fourth cycle of dialogues, which began on August 14, also focused on issues such as the participation of civil society in the peace talks and the bilateral ceasefire, agreed upon at the last meeting of the delegations in Havana and which began to take effect on August 3 and will extend at least until January 29, 2024.

In a joint communiqué, the delegations highlighted that a political and conceptual framework was agreed that aims to ensure that the ceasefire fulfills its humanitarian purpose. In this sense, the communities of the Medio San Juan municipality in the department of Chocó, the territory of Bajo Calima in the department of Valle del Cauca were declared “critical zones”; in addition to the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia, northeast of the department of Antioquía, and the south of the department of Bolívar.

In these areas “humanitarian actions and dynamics will be carried out, guarantees for compliance with the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire, the participation of communities in the peace process and social development projects”, measures that will be supported by the National Department of Planning, it was reported.

The government and the ELN – the last active guerrilla in Colombia – resumed peace talks in November 2022 after more than three years of suspension.

Israel Ramírez Pineda, the ELN’s deputy commander and known by the alias Pablo Beltrán, stated, however, that unfortunately in the first month of the ceasefire, the ELN has been the target of intense attacks. Beltrán questioned the “big media” that would seek to “place obstacles to this process” and denounced that “there have been very inclement attacks on communities that try to develop a social oversight of this ceasefire.”

The ELN considers that both the media and military attacks “obey sectors that are happy with the structural crisis that the country is experiencing and do not want there to be changes.”

Beltrán urged Colombians to continue accompanying the peace process.

Otty Patiño, head of the Colombian government’s negotiating team, said that the delegates made progress in the common purpose of putting “the lives and rights of people” who suffer the impact of the conflict at the center of the dialogue. Patiño is co-founder of the extinct M-19 guerrilla group, where the current Colombian president Gustavo Petro served in his youth.

The goal is to design and implement a set of measures and procedures that “in addition to bringing temporary relief, seek the lasting establishment of rights and real equality that respects and enhances the differences that enrich us” as Colombians, added Patiño.

According to figures from the Colombian authorities, the ELN currently has around 5,000 members and operates in various departments of the country, especially on the border with Venezuela.

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