ELN Negotiations: One Step forward, Two Steps Back; Organization’s ‘Collective Decision Making Structure’ Poses Big Challenges (E)
Emily Hastings writes in the Bogota Post. Recent weeks have seen a series of ELN attacks throughout the country, sparking both outrage and concern about the future of the fledgling negotiations.
The ELN claimed responsibility for setting off a bomb on February 19 in the central Bogotá neighbourhood of the Macarena, which killed one policeman and injured 25. They also attacked a military patrol near Villavicencio on February 14, and made several separate attacks on the Caño Limón Coveñas pipeline.
On the other hand, talks have officially started between the government and the ELN, and the insurgents issued a statement on March 2 saying they would make efforts to advance pilot programmes for de-mining in cooperation with the indigenous communities in Nariño.
The recent attacks, along with the ELN’s refusal to denounce kidnapping, will certainly complicate the negotiations. But so far the talks look set to continue. The six-point agenda will cover: social participation in the peace process, democracy, transformations for peace, victims, ending the armed conflict and implementation.
A report by Sebastián Bernal at WOLA (an NGO that campaigns for Human Rights across the Americas) estimates they have between 1,500 and 1,800 members. He explains that in contrast to the FARC’s hierarchical structure, the ELN have a collective decision making structure which will complicate the negotiating process.
A 2016 report from Conflict Analysis Resource Centre, CERAC, says that “The persistence of ELN violence is one of the main risks facing the recently announced negotiation process towards a complete peace.”
Their analysis shows a steady rise in ELN hostilities since 2010, as well as an increase in military offensives against the ELN. Interestingly, their study does not show a correlation between increased violence and previous exploratory talks.
Successful talks are important on several levels, not least in de-escalating violence in areas that have been vacated by the FARC. In addition, the analysis shows that it will reduce the risks and obstacles in implementing the peace agreement.
CERAC conclude, “A negotiated solution to the conflict with the ELN is not only necessary but will bring fewer human and economic losses to the country than an elusive termination to the conflict by military means.” Bogotá Post