Mexico will play host to a new round of peace talks in January between the Colombian government and its largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, also known as the ELN. The latest round of talks was held in Caracas, Venezuela and carried over for three weeks. It concluded on Monday and was said to have brought about modest developments.

Associated Press reported state that Mexico, Norway, Venezuela, Chile, and Cuba have come together to act as guarantor nations during the peace talks. Delegates from the Colombian government and the rebels published a statement that announced their mutual agreement on a plan to provide humanitarian relief to villages in two of the nation’s regions that have been hit hard by the conflict. They also agreed to give the same provisions to imprisoned rebel fighters. The rebel’s chief negotiator, Paolo Beltran, expressed his hopes that both camps will agree to a ceasefire in the next round of peace talks scheduled to commence in January.

The negotiations between the government and the ELN were suspended in 2019 after the group attacked a police academy in Bogota. The attack resulted in the death of 23 people. The peace talks resumed last month shortly after President Gustavo Petro was elected to office. Petro is the nation’s first leftist President and views the peace talks as a cornerstone of his plans to bring peace to the country.

With some rural areas in the country still struggling under the grip of rebel groups and drug gangs, Petro aims to forge “total peace” in the nation. In 2016, a peace deal was forged with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but it would seem this had fallen through the cracks.

The ELN was founded in 1964 by the Cuban revolution and was smaller than the FARC. However, it has become more influential in rural areas over recent years, mostly in areas that were abandoned by the FARC. Currently, the ELN has some 4,000 armed rebels in the country as well as in Venezuela. The ELN is notorious for its drug trafficking operations and illegal gold mining.

Colombia's government and ELN delegation hold peace talks
Colombia's government and a delegation for the National Liberation Army (ELN) hold talks in Caracas. Photo by: Reuters/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

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