Colombian rebels release hostages to aid peace talks

The National Liberation Army, the ELN, which has waged violence against the Colombian government for more than half a century, has released six hostages to enable peace talks to resume.

By James Blears

As a sign of good faith, the ELN has released two military officers, three soldiers, and one policeman whom they have held as hostages.

A spokesman for the National Liberation Army described the move as a unilateral humanitarian gesture, to enable and facilitate peace talks to re-start in Cuba.

Negotiations imploded after a car bomb exploded at the General Santander National Police Academy in the capital, Bogota, on 17 January 2019.

Twenty-one young and unarmed cadets were killed in the blast, and another sixty-eight were injured.

The bombing was sanctioned by the ELN’s most agressive Domingo Lain Front. The ELN officially claimed responsibility four days later.

Then-President Ivan Duque immediately suspended peace talks and sought the arrest of ELN delegates in Cuba, which was unsuccessful.

Seeking a fresh start

New Colombian President Gustavo Petro, once a member of the M19 guerrilla group, is now seeking fresh peace talks and a fresh start.

The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, signed a peace agreement with the Colombian Government in 2016.

Now, Colombia’s new Government is seeking to bring the ELN back to the table and conclude the conflict, a move many say is long overdue.  The ELN was founded in 1964, the same year as the FARC.

An opportunity may perhaps be emerging to end this conflict once for all, and for Colombia to live in peace, if they can successfully combat the drug cartels.