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Colombian government strikes deal with ELN rebel group to extend truce

On February 6, 2024, the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group announced a six-month extension to the ceasefire negotiated in August.


The ceasefire was negotiated during peace talks on July 9, 2023. The bilateral ceasefire began on August 3, 2023, and lasted six months. Under the ceasefire conditions, the ELN has agreed to suspend kidnappings for ransom.


Un Secretary General Antonia Guterres commented that the ceasefire confirmed the political will of both parties to advance peace. He said, “these are important steps that give hope to the Colombian people, especially the communities most affected by the conflict.”


The sixth round of peace talks occurred in Cuba last month intending to agree on an extension for the ceasefire that expired at the end of January.


A joint statement posted by the ELN delegation on X, formerly Twitter read “We have agreed to extend as of 00:00 hours on February 6, 2024, for one hundred and eighty (180) days, the Bilateral, National, and Temporary Ceasefire (CFBNT)...The (ELN), to contribute to the development of the bilateral, national, and temporary ceasefire, is unilaterally and temporarily suspending economic kidnappings.


The extension of the ceasefire will last seven days to allow for more time to negotiate.


The ELN is estimated to have circa 5,800 fighters and was founded in 1964. Several rounds of negotiations have been held in Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba acting as guarantors along with the governments of Brazil, Chile, and Norway.


Colombia President Gustavo Petro’s government initiated peace talks in 2022 as part of their “paz total” policy. Colombia has had ongoing conflict for six decades and the leftist president pledged to put an end to it as part of his election campaign. Colombia's government is also negotiating with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), the largest group of dissident former rebels of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).


While kidnappings have been suspended, ELN leaders requested financial resources to clothe and feed their members. Vera Grabe, head of the government’s delegation announced that “a multi-donor peace fund will be created” without elaborating on the amount.


This fund must be managed with transparency to avoid corruption, said the head of ELN’s negotiation team, Pablo Beltran. 


The current negotiations will reveal whether both sides are genuine in their attempt to find a total peace for Colombia.


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