Colombia: ELN and FARC to Possibly Relaunch Coordination Body

The leader of Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group made a revelation Friday that could change the course of the peace talks in Havana in an interview with Brasil de Fato, Resumen Latinoamericano and Colombia Informa.

National Liberation Army (ELN) head Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, better known as “Gabino,” mentioned the hardly known state of his group's relationship with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Rodriguez announced that negotiations were currently taking place in a bid to reactivate a guerrilla coordination body that would unify the groups’ strategies like it used to in the 1990s when both groups' power was at its peak.

“This is will strengthen the unity of the rebels and will consist of an important message for the Colombian people who expect the unity of revolutionaries,” he said, emphasizing that unity was “crucial to go ahead with the strategic objectives of the armed insurgency, as well as for the struggle of the people and the nation.”

“Both organizations ran a survey among our supporters and an overwhelming majority of both forces support the re-launching of the Guerrilla Coordination Simon Bolivar,” he added.

RELATEDColombian Peace Process Timeline

Experts on the Colombian peace process commented on Rodriguez's declaration, hesitating whether it could be interpreted as a step back or forward for the peace process.

It would be interesting, said political analyst Ernesto Borda, if such thing happened “to the extent that the ELN shortened the negotiations delays and coincided with what has been negotiated with the FARC so far.”

As for Senator Horacio Serpa from the governing Liberal Party, he believed that behind the ELN's idea of relaunching the coordination was the intention of integrating the negotiations along with the FARC.

On the other hand, peace negotiation opponents claimed this move could extend them.

“Negotiating again this topic with the ELN could extend indefinitely the negotiations with the FARC,” said senator Alfredo Ranjel (from the Democratic Center of former President Alvaro Uribe).

Other political analysts and leaders also pointed to the necessity of the FARC to confirm the ELN proposal before making further speculations.

RELATED: The Colombian Peace Process Explained

The ELN has repeatedly shown incentives of being included in the peace process about two years after they began - in 2012, between the two rounds of the 2014 presidential elections. The FARC also insisted on the importance of including the ELN – which was then criticized by opponents as a move to delay further the negotiations.

Exploratory talks between the Colombian government and the ELN already failed to turn into negotiations in 2002 and 2007. Recently, after various bilateral meetings in Ecuador and Venezuela, ELN leaders accepted to start debating a unilateral cease-fire – a nonnegotiable point for the Colombian government.

If peace negotiations were to begin with the ELN, although it would start with a different agenda than the FARC's, both would be likely to converge at some point, commented Marisol Gomez Giraldo in a column for El Tiempo earlier in September. Both guerrilla groups’ demands coincide to a great extent, with the difference being that the ELN, historically being a more political than military guerrilla group, emphasize a more inclusive mechanism of political participation.



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