Colombia and the ELN resume dialogue for peace: is Caracas a convenient venue for negotiations?

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The Colombian government of Gustavo Petro and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) set up a dialogue table on Monday in Caracas to restart the peace negotiation process suspended in 2018 by decision of the then president of the Andean country, Iván Duque.

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A few hours after the event, which is held more than a month after the announcement of the restart, some unknowns persist, including the methodology and the overall composition of the teams, but one of the main doubts that arises is If the Venezuelan capital is the best place resume these talks, in light of the political and economic crisis surrounding the country led by Nicolás Maduro.

A key piece of these discussions is Monsignor Ettore Fabio Henao, who will travel to Caracas as a representative for Church-State relations. Consulted on the choice of the Venezuelan capital, the priest underlined the fact that peace with armed organizations is a regional issuewhich jeopardizes the collaboration of Colombia and Venezuela.

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Peace in Colombia is a regional issue and one cannot ignore that Colombia and Venezuela they share a very long border, of more than 2,000 km. Part of the conflict takes place in the border areas and our peoples are related”, Henao explained in dialogue with Radio France International (RFI), before leaving for Caracas.

“The decision that Venezuela outside a guarantor country was taken at the time of President Santos, when did these approaches start. In addition to Cuba and Norway, Caracas is on the original list, as a seat and as a guarantor country”, added the religious.

Henao also referred to the fact that citizen participation will be a key difference in this negotiation process compared to the one carried out with the FARC.

“In this case, citizen participation only happened at the end of the process. This time, it is the first item on the agenda, and a cross-cutting theme of the issue, which will be highlighted in each of the points they are trying,” he Henao explained.

“Participation will be given through consultations with men and women living in the territories under a mechanism that has not yet been designed, so that their proposals can be expressed and put on the table,” he concluded.

Who will be in Caracas

On the side of President Gustavo Petro’s government, the names of Otty Patiño, a former M-19 guerrilla, who will head the negotiating team, and the president of the Colombian Federation of Ranchers (Fedegan), José Félix Lafourie, have been confirmed. bitter enemy of the guerilla.

For the ELN there will be Israel Ramírez Pineda, alias “Pablo Beltrán”, — second in command of that guerrilla — as head of delegation. The rest of the attendees were not announced.

Venezuela plays a fundamental role in the dialogue due to a fact that differentiates it from the other two guarantor countries — Cuba and Norway — due to its proximity to Colombia, which facilitates strong ELN presence in border stateswhere members of the guerrilla have taken root in recent years.

Of the ELN’s eight warfronts, the Northeast – one of the most powerful – also operates in the Venezuelan region of Zulia (northwest) and the Orientale, in Apure (southwest).

The last meeting between the parties was on August 1, 2018 in Havana, during the government of Juan Manuel Santos, which ended without reaching any agreement, six days before Duque’s rise to power, which put the dialogues in the freezer.

Source: EFE and RFI

Source: Clarin

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