HomeNewsBriefAs ELN Peace Talks Start, a Rocky Path Ahead
BRIEF

As ELN Peace Talks Start, a Rocky Path Ahead

COLOMBIA / 7 FEB 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

As the public phase of peace talks between the government of Colombia and the country's second-largest guerrilla group begins, the rebels' ongoing kidnappings and fragmented structure promise a bumpy road for the negotiations.

The National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and the Colombian government planned to meet on February 7 in Quito, Ecuador, for the official start of negotiations meant to bring an end to the conflict between the parties, reported El Colombiano.

The talks, whose preliminary phase was launched in 2014, had failed to officially begin in October 2016 because the guerrilla group had not released a kidnapped former congressman, Odín Sánchez Montes de Oca.

Sánchez was finally let go on February 2, reported El País, opening the path for the delayed official start of the talks five days later.

The release of another ELN hostage held since January 24, a soldier named Fredy Moreno Mahecha, was confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross on February 6, according to El Tiempo.

For its part, the Colombian government freed four guerrillas in exchange, which the ELN welcomed as a positive sign in a press release. But the rebel group also criticized the continuing military operations against the group, saying that "the obstinate position of [President Juan Manuel] Santos' administration to discuss while continuing the hostilities will result in grave difficulties for the negotiation process."

InSight Crime Analysis

The official talks between the ELN and the government may have finallly started after numerous delays, but the rebel group's fragmented structure raises serious doubts as to the leadership's ability to reign in its troops' participation in criminal activities such as kidnapping, and to ensure that they would comply with a possible agreement.

Reports have indicated that the ELN is actually expanding its operations by recuperating the drug and illicit mining activities abandoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia - FARC), amid the latter's own demobilization process.

Moreover, extensive InSight Crime field research in the department of Nariño has uncovered evidence of at least three kidnappings by the ELN in the last four months that have not been officially reported. These included a former mayor of the Roberto Payán municipality and a senior business figure in El Charco with ransoms in excess of $100,000.

ELN - Roberto Payan

The flag of the ELN planted in the Roberto Payán municipality of Nariño. InSight Crime photo

These recent events could be a means for the rebel group to increase its leverage at the negotiation table. León Valencia, the director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación), told El Universal that the ELN would likely continue the kidnappings until the government agreed to a bilateral ceasefire during negotiations.

SEE ALSO: ELN News and Profile

But one cannot ignore the lucrative aspects of the kidnappings and illicit trades, nor the fact that they endanger the talks by calling into question whether certain elements of the guerrilla group are actually willing to eventually demobilize. Further kidnappings could be particularly damaging as they could chip away at public support for the peace process.

Moreover, given the ELN's fragmented structure, its leader Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias "Gabino," may not be able to rein in the rank and file and put a stop to kidnapping and other criminal activities. Similarly, Gabino's ability to enforce the implementation of a possible agreement within the rebel ranks is uncertain.

share icon icon icon

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

AUC / 5 OCT 2016

Following the narrow victory by those who opposed the peace deal between Colombia's government and the FARC rebel group, InSight…

AUC / 29 FEB 2012

Colombia's attorney general, Viviane Morales, was removed from her position by the country's Council of State after they deemed her…

AUC / 18 FEB 2016

Prosecutors in Colombia believe over 100 people were murdered, dismembered and disappeared in a Bogotá prison between 1999 and 2001,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events - Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…