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Colombia nulls arrest warrants in bid to restart peace talks

August 21, 2022

Gustavo Petro, Colombia's newly elected president, hopes to end nearly 60 years of conflict. Petro himself is a former member of the M-19 insurgency.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro
Colombian President Gustavo Petro won the presidential campaign with his promise of 'total peace'Image: Presidencia de Colombia

In a bid to restart peace talks in Colombia after an insurgency well into its sixth decade, the newly elected President Gustavo Petro has suspended arrest warrants and extradition requests for members of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Petro's announcement fulfills a key campaign promise of bringing "total peace" to Colombia. Petro is himself a former member of the M-19 insurgency and said he was doing so now "to start a dialogue with the National Liberation Army."

Following a security council meeting in Bolivar province, Petro said, "This resolution initiates a new possibility of a peace process in Colombia."

What is the status of the talks currently?

Founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, the ELN comes from Latin America's far-left traditions. Under the government of Juan Manuel Santos, who served as president from 2010 to 2018, the state began talks with the group.

However, in 2019, when those talks broke off, representatives of the ELN have opted to remain in Cuba.

Soon after Petro was elected, representatives of the ELN said they would be willing to begin talks.

Colombia's first leftist president sworn in

Colombian and international officials visited Cuba this month to determine whether talks would be possible with the radical, decentralized ELN, Petro said.

The talks began in Ecuador in 2017 but moved to Cuba the following year.

Why were talks called off?

The previous government of President Ivan Duque called off talks with the ELN after one of the group's bombs killed 22 police cadets in Bogota.

Previous efforts to talk to the ELN have been unsuccessful due to the group's internal divisions.

The group survives through illegal mining, drug trafficking and kidnapping.

ar/sri (AFP, EFE, Reuters)