HomeNewsBriefELN Negotiator Talks Peace Progress, New Underworld Conflicts
BRIEF

ELN Negotiator Talks Peace Progress, New Underworld Conflicts

COLOMBIA / 18 APR 2017 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

One of the chief negotiators of Colombia's largest remaining guerrilla group, the ELN, has spoken out on the rebels' peace process and their place in the rapidly evolving Colombian underworld. However, the picture he paints bears little resemblance to the realities of a group that is now playing a pivotal role in shaping Colombian organized crime dynamics.

In an interview with Verdad Abierta, Carlos Reyes described the latest developments in peace talks in Quito, Ecuador between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN).

According to Reyes, negotiators have now established two sub-working groups that are discussing the participation of civil society in the peace process and humanitarian actions.

Reyes insisted there was a unified backing of the peace process among the guerrillas and denied claims that the ELN's Central Command is struggling to maintain control over the guerrilla fronts scattered around the country. However, he ruled out the possibility of the ELN declaring a unilateral ceasefire to de-escalate the conflict.

"The ceasefire must be bilateral, agreed on, verified and respected by both parties," he said.

Reyes denied the ELN are co-opting spaces left by the demobilizing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). But at the same time, he repeated the statement made by ELN leader Pablo Beltrán that the guerrillas "will go where we are called."

In relation to the conflict hotspot of the western department of Chocó, where the ELN are involved in a long-running conflict with the neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños, Reyes claimed the ELN's interest in the region was not related to control of drugs, illegal mining and smuggling corridors but with organizing communities to address issues such as corruption, poverty and state neglect.

Reyes also accused the state of colluding with the Urabeños in Chocó, pointing to the unimpeded movement of large groups of Urabeños fighters in the region as evidence.

"This paramilitary group has support, intelligence and coordination with the military," he said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reyes comments present the face of the ELN that the guerrillas would like to show to the world: that of a revolutionary force working for the benefit and with the support of neglected and poverty ridden regions, confronting state corruption, paramilitarism and exploitative businesses that is now preparing for peace. However, while there may be some truth to many of his comments, the reality on the ground is very different.

SEE ALSO: ELN Profile

With the departure of the FARC, who are currently assembled in demobilization camps around the country, the ELN have found themselves presented with a golden opportunity to increase their influence and wealth even as they talk peace in Quito. And contrary to Reyes' comments, there is strong evidence that they are taking advantage by seeking to fill the vacuum left by the FARC in regions with lucrative criminal economies or geographical strategic importance.

The example discussed by Reyes -- Chocó -- stands as a stark warning to how this situation could fuel new cycles of underworld conflicts as the Colombian underworld adapts to the departure of the FARC. If peace talks with the ELN do not progress rapidly, then further such conflicts could erupt as the ELN looks to boost its finances and territorial influence, either to strengthen their negotiating hand or to wage further war.

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 / 4 AUG 2016

The vast majority of gold in Colombia's mines is extracted illegally, according to one expert, underscoring the importance of this…

COLOMBIA / 3 SEP 2014

Colombia is beginning to face up to the threat of illegal mining with a series of security measures, but to…

COLOMBIA / 15 APR 2021

Colombia remains a hotspot for forced recruitment of minors. In this, the last of a three-part investigation by InSight Crime,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

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…