The Colombian government and the far-left guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) signed a six-month temporary ceasefire agreement in Havana on Friday (June 9th), AFP reported. The agreement for a "bilateral national and temporary ceasefire," according to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, was signed in the presence of Colombian President Gustavo Petro and ELN leader Antonio Garcia.
Under the impetus of Gustavo Petro, the country's first left-wing president and former guerrilla, the Colombian government has been negotiating since the end of 2022 with the ELN, the last guerrilla group still active in Colombia. Talks began in November in Caracas before continuing in March in Mexico City, where both sides pledged to discuss a ceasefire. The death of nine Colombian soldiers at the end of March in an ELN ambush then raised doubts about the continuation of the negotiations.
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Half-century of armed conflict
Talks with the ELN began in 2018, already in Havana, under the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) but his successor, the conservative Ivan Duque (2018-2022) ended them in 2019 after a bloody attack on a police academy (22 dead). Ivan Duque then reactivated the arrest warrants against the armed group's negotiators and asked Cuba for their extradition, which Havana refused. This refusal prompted then-US President Donald Trump to blacklist Cuba as a terrorist supporter. Discussions resumed after the election in the summer of 2022 of Gustavo Petro.
The ELN, which numbered 5850 fighters in 2022, according to authorities, has had fruitless talks with five governments. Bloodied by half a century of armed conflict, Colombia has attempted numerous peace negotiations with armed groups. In 2016, a historic agreement, negotiated in Havana, led to the disarmament of the powerful Marxist guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and its transformation into a political party.