Colombia Announces Agreement with ELN Rebels On Displaced People

Colombia's Pres. Gustavo Petro said on Saturday that an agreement was reached in peace talks with the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group to allow the Indigenous Embera community to return to its lands in the west of the country.

Colombia Announces Agreement with ELN Rebels On Displaced People
Image credit: AFP [via El Mundo]

Facts

  • Colombia's Pres. Gustavo Petro said on Saturday that an agreement was reached in peace talks with the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group to allow the Indigenous Embera community to return to its lands in the west of the country.
  • This marks the first significant achievement in 12 days of peace negotiations, but no timeline for their return was announced. Many of the displaced Embera now live in the country's capital, Bogot√°, and frequently clash with police.
  • This comes as negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN resumed last month after more than three years following the election of Petro, the country's first leftist president and a former member of the M-19 rebel group.
  • Petro took office in August vowing to bring "total peace" to Colombia, ending a decades-long civil war in which the ELN is reportedly the last rebel group still active. While no ceasefire has been reached, the government considers the restoration of talks an important milestone.
  • As of Saturday, ELN delegates to the talks hadn't made any statements related to the deal. The Embera used to live in the western departments of Choco and Risaralda but fled violence between drug gangs, outlawed right-wing groups, and the ELN.
  • Colombia's formal insurgencies have engaged in peace talks, but criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining still afflict some areas of the country, which is the world's main source of cocaine.

Sources: Al Jazeera, France24, BBC News, and Voa.

Narratives

  • Left narrative, as provided by Foreign Policy. Though significant obstacles remain, the fact that Colombia and its leaders have indicated there is hope for peaceful dialogue shows that this historically violent country may have turned over a new leaf. It won't be easy to persuade all stakeholders to reach an agreement, but Petro has already conducted more diplomacy than his predecessors.
  • Right narrative, as provided by El American. It's evident that Colombia needs total peace, but it shouldn't come at the vast cost of implementing total impunity. Petro's plan is disastrous, as it would allow asset laundering operations to benefit criminals who should instead be forced to pay sanctions and hand over their tainted money to the Colombian people.
  • Cynical narrative, as provided by Insight Crime. Petro's "Total Peace" plan offers a general framework to open dialogue and is a step towards achieving his ambitious goal, but the strategy is risky as there is no alternative if negotiations go wrong or if criminal groups refuse to lay down their arms. Most problematically, this proposal fails to tackle the roots of violence in Colombia and could further decentralize groups, as evident in FARC's demobilization.