Colombia's two guerrilla armies, the FARC and the ELN, have released a joint statement announcing they want to work together and calling for the inclusion of the ELN in ongoing peace talks with the government.
At a secret meeting at an undisclosed location in Colombia's mountains, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) met to “finally overcome several incidents that in the past led to contradictions, distances and clashes between the two forces," according to a statement released on July 1 (see video below). The meeting aimed to "strengthen the advances towards a united guerrilla and revolutionary movement."
The communique signed by the commanders-in-chief of the two groups -- Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias "Gabino," of the ELN and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias "Timochenko," (also known as Timoleon Jimenez) of the FARC -- also stated that any dialogue hoping to bring an end to the armed conflict must "include conversations with all Colombian insurgents."
The announcement came on the same day that the FARC and the Colombian government resumed peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba, with talks centering on the second point of discussion: political participation for the FARC.
InSight Crime Analysis
The FARC and the ELN are two of Colombia's most powerful criminal forces, together controlling an estimated 10,000 rebels and at least 60 percent of the country's drug trade. As such, any agreement to work together has profound implications for Colombia's criminal landscape. While indications of cooperation between the FARC and ELN have been emerging for some time, this statement is the strongest show of unity yet, suggesting they are prepared to increase joint operations and clearly delineate territory. It also places great pressure on the government to include the ELN in peace negotations with the FARC that begun in October 2012.
The ELN has expressed interest in being included in the talks on various occasions, with ELN members thrown out of Havana in January after showing up uninvited. In April, media reported that the government and the ELN had successfully held talks and would begin their own negotiations in May. President Juan Manuel Santos later confirmed he was open to the possibility but only if the guerrillas released all their hostages and stopped kidnapping.