BOGOTA – Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Sunday that Conservative former minister Juan Camilo Restrepo will act as the government’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which will begin on Oct. 27 in Quito.
“On the next Thursday, if the conditions are right, the negotiating table will be held in Ecuador with the ELN for a complete peace,” Santos said in a presidential speech on Sunday.
The head of state also said that during this week he will speak about “this important step and who will be part of the negotiating team.”
“I can tell you that the team leader is former minister Juan Camilo Restrepo,” he added.
Until now, the chief government contact for the ELN was the ex-commissioner for peace, Frank Pearl, who has also acted as a negotiator in talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana.
Restrepo was the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development during Santos’ government between 2010-2013, and the Minister of Finance and Public Credit during Andres Pastrana’s presidency between 2000-2001.
The negotiator is an economist at Javeriana University and has a specialization in Economic Law from the London School of Economics, and a doctorate in Administrative Law from the University of the Sorbonne.
He has acted as the Colombian ambassador to France and a senator for the Conservative Party.
The Colombian government and the ELN announced on Oct. 10 that they would begin the public phase of peace talks on Oct. 27 in Quito.
To begin the talks, the government had demanded an end to the kidnappings from the ELN, the second largest guerrilla group in Colombia after FARC.