The delegations of the National Liberation Army and the Colombian government met Tuesday in Ecuador's capital with outgoing President Rafael Correa in order to initiate the second round of peace talks between the two parties.
Correa offered Quito as the headquarters for the development of conversations between the second largest leftist guerrilla group in Colombia and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. For the second cycle of talks, the ELN will be represented by Pablo Beltran, while the Colombian government by its chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo.
During a breakfast that kicked off the process, Correa acknowledged the efforts of the Colombian president in initiating the talks, and added that his government would “always receive him with open arms”.
Sources from both teams of negotiators have said that the dialogues will center around minimizing confrontations and the creation of protocols to stop the conflict. ELN representatives have indicated in the past that an agreement must be based on the cessation of violence by paramilitary forces aligned with the Colombian state.
The ELN was founded in 1964 when, influenced by both Marxism and liberation theology, its members sought to enact revolutionary change in Colombian society. Many of its most prominent early leaders were radical priests influenced by liberation theology, most notably the former priest and sociologist Camilo Torres. For nearly half a century, the ELN was one of the most significant actors in the Colombian internal conflict along with the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The ELN is believed today to have approximately 1,500 active members.
The FARC, larger and more well-known than the ELN, signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016, bringing an end to more than 50 years of internal armed conflict that claimed the lives of some 260,000 people in the South American country. In spite of the ongoing peace processes, violence in Colombia has escalated, as the power vacuum left by demobilized FARC troops is being filled by violent paramilitary groups.