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President Duque withdraws appointments of representatives to dialogue group with ELN on September 18

On September 18, President Iván Duque signed Resolution 237, by which he withdrew the previous administration’s appointment of the eight people integrating the dialogue group with the National Liberation Army (ELN), whose meetings take place in Havana, and of all the advisers for the ceasefire design technical committee. Government sources indicate that the decision was an administrative procedure, given that the representatives have finished their official duties on August 3. In turn, according to spokespersons of the insurgent group, the ELN has suggested Duque’s decision reflects he is not interested in dialogue. In recent weeks the ELN liberated a few captives, including a sixteen-year-old minor.

Following the peace deal with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), in February 2017 the former administration led by Manuel Santos established a dialogue track with the ELN. While President Duque is purportedly willing to respect commitments made by his predecessor, he is likely opting to designate his own negotiating team. However, despite his hawkish rhetoric, Duque’s demands do not deviate from Santos’ attitude towards the insurgent group. Both leaders have maintained that dialogue must be conditioned to the release of captives, including the ELN’s commitment to put an end to kidnappings, used by combatants to collect ransom and finance their operations. Given the ELN’s traditional reluctance to abide by these demands, any dialogue between the parties is not likely to yield results. In this respect, as the ELN will likely blame the government for the standstill, further attacks and kidnappings are liable to occur over the coming weeks.

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