HomeNewsBriefColombia Peace Process Delayed Again After ELN Fail to Release Hostage
BRIEF

Colombia Peace Process Delayed Again After ELN Fail to Release Hostage

COLOMBIA / 27 OCT 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Peace talks between the government of Colombia and the country's second-largest guerrilla group have been delayed again after the rebels failed to release a high-profile hostage, a sign that the group's lack of coordination could prove an obstacle to the talks' progress.

Formal peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) were scheduled to begin on October 27 in Quito, Ecuador. The negotiations were officially announced on October 10 after years of delays.

However, the guerrilla group failed to meet the government's demand that they release all hostages prior to the start of the talks, putting the peace process temporarily on hold.

The ELN has not yet released Odín Sánchez Montes de Oca, a former congressman who traded places in April with his brother Patrocinio, the ex-governor of the Chocó department who had been held hostage by the group for more than two years. 

However, the day the talks were due to begin the government's chief negotiator for the ELN peace process, Juan Camilo Restrepo, issued a statement saying that the process of releasing Sánchez has begun with assistance from the International Red Cross and the Catholic church.

"The government welcomes this development, and notes that this procedure is expected to be completed successfully, hopefully before November 3, the date agreed to begin the first formal round of negotiations," Restrepo said in the statement.

In a public address, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said, "I have instructed the government negotiating team to suspend the trip and the formal installation of the negotiations. This remains delayed until [the ELN] release Odin Sánchez safe and sound."

Santos nevertheless reiterated his administration's commitment to the peace process.

"We have every disposition of the government to advance in this process," he said.

The ELN's official Twitter account posted messages expressing concern about the postponement of the talks.

"We do not agree with the suspension of the dialogue," one message reads.

"We are trying to reschedule the installation of the dialogue in the coming days," reads another.

InSight Crime Analysis

The announcement that the negotiations would be delayed represents the latest in a series of obstacles that have made for slow progress in the peace process between the government and the ELN. Reports of potential talks between the two sides have been circulating for years. Preliminary negotiations were announced in June 2014, but the peace process was only formalized in March of this year.

The issue of the ELN's involvement in kidnapping has previously proven to be a major roadblock for the advancement of the process. And now, the group's failure to free Odin Sánchez on time appears to have stalled the talks once again. The longer it takes the group to free Sánchez, the more precarious the process as a whole will become.

If Sánchez is eventually released, there are still several other factors that could make for slow progress toward a final deal. One is the structure of the talks, which include a prominent role for civil society. This could provide an opportunity for various stakeholders to have their opinions and proposals heard, but it is also likely to lengthen the timeline of the negotiations.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the ELN Peace Process

Moreover, this latest setback will likely reduce President Santos' political capital, particularly in light of the recent public rejection of the peace agreement his government reached with the ELN's guerrilla cousins, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC). In addition to dealing with the demands of the ELN in the negotiations, Santos will face limited room for maneuver when it comes to handling the powerful political forces that have aligned against his government's moves toward peace with rebel groups.

Another factor that could complicate the talks is dissidence within ELN ranks. InSight Crime sources in Chocó have said that Patrocinio Sánchez was originally targeted for kidnapping because he had dealings with elements of the ELN during his bid for office and reneged on promises he made to the guerrillas after he was elected. This may be part of the reason that the ELN faction holding Sánchez has been reluctant to turn him over.

Given the ELN leadership's apparent desire to move forward with the negotiations, the fact that Sánchez was not released ahead of the scheduled start of the talks suggests that the organization has entered the peace process in a divided and uncoordinated state. This dynamic means that government negotiators will likely have reduced confidence that their ELN counterparts can deliver on promises made during the negotiations.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 15 APR 2021

The infiltration of an encrypted phone messaging service by Belgian authorities led to a record cocaine haul, showing both how…

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2010

Emerging Criminal Groups or BACRIM's are overrunning mercury mines in Córdoba and Antioquia, President Juan Manuel Santos announced.

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 7 SEP 2021

Authorities have made a string of explosives and weapons seizures while patrolling the Colombia-Ecuador border region – a remote and…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…