MIAMI – US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in an interview with EFE that the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, should sign a peace agreement with the government.
Kelly said prior to the start of the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, an event in Miami co-sponsored by Mexico and the United States and also attended by members of the Colombian government, that the ELN had no other options and that the group would be foolish not to enter into a deal with President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration.
He said the ELN, like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), had come to the negotiating table after having been badly weakened by the Andean nation’s security forces.
Kelly, whose knowledge of Colombia stems from his tenure as commander of the US Southern Command from 2012 to 2016, said the ELN may have had popular support 50 or 60 years ago but now were regarded as mere drug traffickers and criminals by ordinary Colombians.
Colombia’s government and the ELN began formal peace talks in February.
Those discussions follow the signing of a peace accord last year by the government and the FARC, which is currently in the process of handing over all of its weapons to United Nations inspectors.
The six main points of the government’s agreement with the FARC were land reform, political participation, bilateral cease-fire and abandonment of arms, drugs and drug crop, redress for victims of the decades-old strife and the mechanisms for implementing and verifying the final accord.
A cornerstone of the deal with the FARC is the so-called Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which is to deal with all crimes committed during the armed conflict and extend amnesty or pardons for those of a political nature.
The JEP also will mete out sanctions ranging from non-custodial sentences to prison terms in the case of crimes not eligible for amnesty, including genocide, kidnapping and torture.