QUITO – The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group said on Monday it reached a bilateral cease-fire agreement with Colombia’s government.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the same day that the bilateral cease-fire will begin next Oct. 1 and will continue for 102 days.
The accord “will be officially in force for 102 days, until Jan. 12 of next year, and will be renewed to the extent that progress is made on the remaining points,” the president said in a statement that anticipated the announcement to be made by the two sides Monday in Quito.
In a message posted on Twitter, the guerrilla group thanked all who had supported its efforts to reach this agreement, which came two days before the visit of Pope Francis to Colombia.
“Yes we could! Thanks to all who decisively backed the efforts to reach this #BilateralCeaseFire,” the ELN tweeted.
The announcement was made at the end of the third round of talks that began last February in Quito and went on until this Monday, though it was supposed to end last Friday.
Officials in Bogota had previously said that both sides would make an announcement Monday at 11:00 am in the Ecuadorian capital related to the negotiations underway in that country.
Colombian media started the day with reports that an announcement was coming about a temporary bilateral cease-fire agreement 48 hours before the arrival of Pope Francis in Colombia, about which there had been speculation since the week before.
According to RCN Radio, to confirm the pact the government required the ELN to immediately end all forms of violence against the civilian population including kidnapping, attacks on infrastructures and oil pipelines, the recruiting of minors and planting anti-personnel mines.
At the same time, the government guaranteed the guerrillas that it would suspend military action against them, investigate and take effective measures to prevent the slaying of social leaders, strike more powerfully against illegal groups in vulnerable regions, and create a humanitarian plan to improve the living conditions of ELN prisoners currently held in the nation’s prisons.