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Colombia and the ELN hopefully head into a dialogue that seeks changes

Caracas/Bogotá, Nov 21 (EFE).- The peace delegations of the Government of Colombia and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) were hopeful this Monday with the resumption of a political dialogue that, the parties assured, expressed the feeling of the Andean country and will seek concrete transformations in various areas. At the same table, in a hotel in Caracas, the representatives of both delegations started with the first cycle of negotiations that has Venezuela as the host country, as well as guarantor, a role shared with Norway and Cuba. The spokespersons for the conference agreed to express the confidence generated in this start of the talks, which resulted in a joint communiqué in which they agreed to “resume with full political and ethical will” this process, understood as a claim “of the rural territories and urban populations who suffer from violence and exclusion”. INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE Israel Ramírez, alias “Pablo Beltrán”, who spoke for the ELN delegation, thanked the international support for this mechanism, an endorsement that, he considered, increases the sense of commitment to the promise of pacification. “This table must be, and we aim to make it, an instrument of change, of that wave of changes that Colombian society is asking for, and we hope not to fail that expectation,” he said after expressing his wish that, on the side of the Government, the interlocutor has the same point of view. “Colombians cannot see each other as enemies. The work we have is to reconcile, to find common ground again, to build a nation in peace and equity, that is the commitment that we bring,” he remarked. For his part, the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, explained that the dialogue “has important issues for the country,” which includes “concrete territorial transformations,” as well as “specific challenges regarding social and environmental”. “We have a horizon of dialogue to resolve, to agree and to generate these transformations. We are sure and we perceive that there is a provision,” he said. Rueda, who insisted that the dialogue is an “inclusive process, without any exclusion”, recalled that the reason for the negotiation is to resolve conflicts to honor the “murdered, disappeared, tortured, kidnapped”, and he was “convinced” of “achieving the purpose” that leads to “overcoming dynamics of deaths”. THE OTHER ACTORS Venezuela, Cuba and Norway, as guarantor countries in the negotiations, expressed their hope that the parties would reach a successful conclusion, and thanked the “trust placed” by being chosen as direct observers of the dialogue. This was stated in a statement by Cuba, Norway and Venezuela in a brief joint statement with the Colombian Catholic Church and the United Nations, the latter two as guests. “We are grateful for the trust placed in us. We look forward to the process that takes place today. Without a doubt, it is an important step to achieve peace in Colombia,” they said. For his part, the special representative of the UN Secretary General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, celebrated, through social networks, the resumption of peace negotiations and thanked “the support of the Secretary General (of the United Nations), Antonio Guterres, to this process”. The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, also showed his support for the negotiations and reiterated that his country, as the venue for the first meeting, “will spare no effort to accompany” what he considered a “transcendental moment” in the Colombian reconciliation process. A NEW ATTEMPT The Government of Colombia and the ELN resumed negotiations, which had begun in 2017 in Quito (Ecuador) during the mandate of then-President Juan Manuel Santos, and which were later transferred to Havana. During Santos’ tenure, the dialogue was suspended on several occasions, the last one six days before the end of his term as head of the Colombian Presidency, whose baton passed to his successor, Iván Duque, on August 7, 2018. Talks have been suspended since then due to Duque’s demand that the ELN release all the hostages it had in its power and renounce all criminal activity. The situation worsened after the attack perpetrated on January 17, 2019 by the ELN with a vehicle bomb at the General Francisco de Paula Santander Police School in Bogotá, in which 22 cadets died, including an Ecuadorian woman. However, everything changed this year because Gustavo Petro, who succeeded Duque as President, has as a priority the resumption of talks with the ELN, framed in his policy of “total peace.” Thus, four years and four months after their last meeting in Havana, the Colombian government and the ELN sat down again to negotiate, this time in Caracas and with Gustavo Petro as president. (c) EFE Agency

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