Gustavo Petro lives in one of his most difficult moments since he was president.
Negotiations with the ELN are facing the abyss after the attack committed this morning by the guerrillas, in which nine soldiers have died and eight others have been wounded.
"Petro is enraged," they say from around him.
The president has called for consultations with the government's negotiating delegation at the ELN table, the guarantor countries and the accompanying persons.
But he has scheduled it within five days, on Monday, which has aroused criticism from some involved.
"It's too late," says one of those involved in the negotiation.
"Sends a wrong message," highlights another.
It seems to them that Petro should have called an emergency meeting for today to send the unequivocal signal that we are facing the deepest crisis that the peace process with the guerrillas has experienced.
Of course, the president has not been lenient with the ELN, whom he has accused on Twitter of being "absolutely far from peace and the people."
He had not used such harsh words against the armed group since he compared it to Pablo Escobar, the famous drug trafficker.
The president's office has spread that all these criticisms do not imply "a freeze on the dialogues" or that the government is going to "leave the table."
The next cycle of talks, with Havana as the setting, continues.
"A peace process must be serious and responsible with Colombian society," Petro said ambiguously on social media.
The president has received this blow when attending to other matters.
He had focused the last few weeks on resolving the Venezuelan political crisis.
He traveled to Caracas to speak with Nicolás Maduro and days later his right-hand man, Laura Sarabia, traveled to the United States to finalize the details of an international summit of diplomats to be held in Bogotá to discuss this issue.
The peace negotiation seemed to continue on its way normally, after three weeks ago in Mexico City the parties had agreed on a work agenda that will serve as a guide for the negotiation.
One of those involved in that dialogue believes that this could be a turning point for changing the negotiation strategy.
"And stop fighting with those who made the other agreement, the one with the FARC," he continues, referring to the negotiators of Juan Manuel Santos, who have criticized the work of the Petro, whom they accuse of conceding too much to the ELN.
To resolve these differences, this Thursday they have been summoned to Cartagena to see their faces and discuss everything they have to discuss.
In the ELN they do not consider that this endangers the process.
Pablo Beltrán, the historical chief of the guerrilla negotiators, has said over and over again that there is no ceasefire between the parties.
“This is a war”, he has reminded himself.
Petro has sought an armistice from the beginning, but they have resisted.
On the negotiation agenda it appears as one of the issues to be discussed in the following conversations.
The attack on an army base in the rural area of the municipality of El Carmen, in the north of Santander, has brought back old ghosts from the past.
The previous process with the ELN ended in 2019, when the guerrillas committed an attack on a cadet school in Bogotá in which 23 people died.
Now something similar could have happened, but Petro is not Iván Duque, the president at the time and who never believed in negotiations or was interested in making agreements with the FARC.
The president has shown an absolute will to reach an agreement.
His government shares many of the ELN's apostolates, at the table they are discussing the left and the armed left hidden in the jungle.
But, as has become clear with the Clan del Golfo, with whom he broke the ceasefire, he will not do so at any cost.
Petro's patience is being tested.
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