The second largest resistance group, in Columbia, The National Liberation Army (ELN), agreed on Wednesday to join in peace talks with the current government. They now join with the country’s major rebel army, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), in a coordinated effort to try and bring a lasting peace to a country that has seen revolution and civil war for the last 50 years.
The government hopes the peace talks will stop the fighting and unite the country under the rule of the current government. The civil war in Columbia has raged for five decades and has forcefully displaced more than 5 million while killing over 220,000, making the upcoming peace talks a crucial endeavor.
A news conference was held in Caracas, Venezuela, in which all sides announced that negotiations would begin in Ecuador two months from now. Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos had demanded that ELN release two hostages prior to agreeing on the negotiations, which the rebel group did.
President Santos appeared on national television and said that, “It will be the end of the guerilla groups and we can all concentrate – democratically – on making our country the free, normal, modern, just and inclusive place it can and should be.
”Both FARC and ELN were organized and began open armed rebellion back in the early part of the 1960’s after witnessing the successful Fidel Castro revolution in Cuba. The groups have been financing themselves for many decades through cocaine trafficking and kidnapping. The ELN had been stepping up their attacks of late in the hope that President Santos’ government would agree to peace negotiations.
FARC has been negotiating with the government at peace talks being held in Havana for the past three years. Most citizens, however, are hopeful that this in addition tow the peace talks two months from now will bring about an end to the violence.
The president of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners, which is based in Bogota, Franklin Castenada, was hopeful and excited about the prospects for a lasting peace in the war torn nation.
“For us it’ll mean a peace process that’s complete,” he said in a public statement. “It will allow us to build a country that’s different where we can use democracy toward all conflicts and not violence. We’re really pleased and have been pushing for it and support it.”