Danilo Rueda has in his hands to change the political cycle in Colombia. The president has lost the initiative. His opponents have smelled blood in the confessions of Armando Benedetti, his former campaign manager, about possible irregular financing of his candidacy for the Presidency. Petro seems trapped in that narrative that prevents him from moving forward. Rueda can give this Thursday a blow of hand. The peace commissioner has agreed to a ceasefire with the ELN that can return the government to the path of achievement. It has not been easy. The guerrillas, accustomed to the inscrutable times of the jungle, have resisted for months, making Petro understand that no one, not even the bearer of the presidential sash, is in a hurry. Rueda, a somewhat elusive interviewee, responds from Havana, Cuba.
Question. What will the ceasefire look like? National? Regional?
Answer. It will be of national order. This is the first time that the ELN has prepared for a six-month bilateral ceasefire. Never before has this been achieved in a peace process with this guerrilla. We made significant progress.
Q. Does it involve other armed groups?
A. This commitment to peace is integral and aims to be definitive. That is total peace. This is an unprecedented process in the world. It is ambitious, but also realistic. It intends to simultaneously achieve progress with the urban peace processes, with the ECM FARC (Central General Staff), the FARC Second Marquetelia, with the Clan del Golfo and with the Self-Defense Forces of Sierra Nevada — all of them groups that have taken up arms. Its focus is on the voices and stories of thousands of people who continue to suffer various forms of armed violence. And the delegitimization of violence for political and profit reasons.
Q. I have the feeling that you are a firefighter of the president. He gets you into trouble with the ELN (he recently said that the guerrillas' raison d'être was drug trafficking, which generated a deep crisis in the negotiation) and you cushion them.
A. It is a misperception, here there are no fires to put out. Our purpose is to put out the fire that we are beginning to end from the multiple armed violence that has generated so many victims for us. There are ethical and political decisions that are based on the territories, on the demands of the communities that continue to suffer violence. All this is part of the peace policy. That is our north, that is our day to day with misunderstood steps, with setbacks, but with the conviction that it is the right thing to do at this moment in history.
Q. Do you ever pray for the peace process?
A. Every day I wake up to the voices of the communities that continue to demand loudly, in silence, in letters, in writings, in videos, peace with social and environmental justice. That is what motivates me and day by day gives me strength to breathe so as not to faint and reach the dream and purpose of this government: definitive peace.
Q. Who is your interlocutor with Petro now that Laura Sarabia is gone?
A. My interlocutor has always been President Gustavo Petro.
Q. When is the Itagui roundtable (a peace process with urban gangs) going to be launched?
A. The socio-legal space was installed in the Itagüi prison last Friday. And then in the metropolitan area, in Bello, we had an act with the participation of young people and women who supported the construction of that important space with signs of hope to achieve the cessation of urban violence in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.
Q. The negotiators with the FARC during the Juan Manuel Santos era say that you gave too much to the ELN. What do you think?
A. I do not know what they have said about this process. We are in dialogue and our delegation headed by Otty Patiño and conformed to the plural vision of the country amply demonstrates that plurality, inclusion and dialogue with which we have differences generates changes and positive results for the resolution of the armed conflict that our country suffers.
Q. You had dealings with Ambassador Benedetti when the cycle was held in Caracas. How have you seen his sudden exit?
A. With Dr. Benedetti we had very short dialogues, always respectful. There is already a new ambassador and a government policy that is ongoing.
Q. The reduction of deforestation in the forest depends on the goodwill of the EMC, which dominates these territories. Do you find a real will on your part?
A. Petro's policy is to rebuild the social and forestry state of law. That is peace. It is the priority attention to confront the inequalities in which millions of Colombians live. And that were manifested and revealed in the midst of the social explosion. The gestures of peace that the EMC has made on environmental issues have been novel and important. But it should be noted that the environmental policies of our Government are absolutely transformative in the perspective with social and environmental justice.
Q. Is there more pressure on you now that there are more problems in the government? Petro needs results at a delicate time.
A. Well, the responsibilities before the country are the same in terms of peace since August 7 of last year (when the talks with the ELN began). Here the present and future of children and young people and the well-being and beautiful existence of Colombians are at stake. This is a historic opportunity that we have never had. That means on a day-to-day basis generating absolute trust. Face the fears that our society still lives, sometimes a society imbued in misinformation, in a culture of fear. Give that confidence that peace generates prosperity.
Q. Has there been any rapprochement with the FARC Segunda Marquetalia and with Iván Márquez lately? Isn't that process underway?
A. The process continues in a phase of confidentiality. We hope to resolve some obstacles to progress in peacebuilding.
Q. By the way, what is the state of health of Márquez, the guerrilla who suffered an attack last year and was blinded in one eye?
A. In the last conversation I had with Márquez I observed him well, lucid, with a very coherent and consistent reading of reality with the new realities.
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