HAVANA – The National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest active guerrilla group in Colombia, has rejected the government’s allegation that it was hindering peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The guerrilla group said on Saturday in a statement to EFE that President Ivan Duque’s administration was itself trying to tear apart the truce.
“It is not the ELN which intervenes in the implementation of the agreements with the FARC and blocks the much-desired peace,” the statement said, adding Colombia and the international community were witnesses to the plan of “tearing apart of the peace.”
The ELN reacted to a statement of the Colombian foreign ministry on Friday which denied having facilitated the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that do not cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism and accused the ELN of blocking their peace talks and implementation of the deal with the FARC.
The Colombian authorities reiterated that the Jan. 17, 2019 attack on the General Santander police academy in Bogota left no space for dialog with the ELN.
Peace talks between the ELN and the previous government of Juan Manuel Santos began in February 2017 in Ecuador. The talks were shifted to Havana in 2018.
The last round of talks that took place in Havana in August that year ended without any progress, causing a stalemate.
President Duque, who takes a more hardline approach to the group, had not resumed the stalled talks with the guerrilla group.
After the termination of dialog, the Colombian government asked Cuba to return the insurgents, which the island nation refused and defended it under the terms of the deal signed by the former government of Santos in the event of a halt in the talks.
This refusal was the main argument raised by the United States in May over including Cuba in its list of countries that do not cooperate in the fight against terrorism.
Cuba had been removed from the list in 2015 during a brief thaw in relations with the US.
In Saturday’s statement, the ELN said that Cuba and the guarantor countries in the process so far had not established that the team in Havana had been involved in any other matter than peace.
“Upon non-resumption of talk, the protocol that establishes the safe return to our camps must be applied,” the ELN said, adding that the government had denied it, arguing that President Duque had not signed the agreement.
Cuba and Colombia are going through a delicate moment in bilateral ties after improved relations following the historic 2016 peace agreement between Bogota and the FARC, reached after four years of sustained peace talks in Havana.