Pablo Beltran, chief negotiator for Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) in the peace talks with the Colombian government, has requested protection from United States in order to continue the fifth round of talks.
The request comes after Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno announced the country will no longer host the fifth cycle of peace negotiations, nor serve as guarantor country “while the ELN does not commit to leaving terrorist activities.”
This decision has forced both delegations to seek an alternative country to hold the talks in, and the ELN negotiating team fears that the U.S. might ask for the extradition of ELN members while on transit.
“Imagine that we are going to country X and while there the U.S. Department of Justice says: ‘Hey, I need you to extradite this guy from the ELN delegation.’ If that possibility is not considered and the ELN delegation has no legal guarantees, you can imagine how hazardous it will be to continue,” Beltran told the AFP.
Earlier this month Colombian security forces arrested Jesus Santrich, former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla and current congressman for the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC), who played a key role in the peace agreement signed between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government in 2016.
The arrest was made at the request of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), alleging Santrich engaged in drug dealing after the peace agreement was signed.
The leadership of the FARC has accused the U.S. of attempting to sabotage the peace deal, which effectively put an end to over six decades of armed conflict with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group. ELN’s Beltran agrees.
During the interview with AFP he stated “there is an explicit decision by the United States government to go against the Colombian peace process.”
According to Beltran, the group has asked Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office for information on any outstanding U.S. extradition requests against their members and leaders, but have received no answer.
After a peace agreement was reached between FARC and the Colombian government, the ELN became the largest armed guerilla group in the country. Santrich’s detention has become a source of mistrust for the ELN.