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Election truce no substitute for Havana negotiations, says ELN negotiator

Chief negotiator of the Colombian guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Pablo Beltran, speaks during an interview in Havana, Cuba, 14 May 2018 (issued 15 May 2018). The temporary ceasefire announced by the ELN to facilitate the electoral process in Colombia ‘does not replace’ the one negotiated in Havana with the government, the chief guerrilla negotiator, Pablo Beltran, told in an interview. EFE

Havana, May 15 (EFE).- The temporary cease-fire announced by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group to facilitate the electoral process in Colombia “does not replace” the one being negotiated in Havana with the government, the ELN’s chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, told EFE.

Beltran, aka Israel Ramirez, appealed to the honor clause of the truce, saying that the ELN “certainly” expects reciprocity from government forces following Monday’s announcement that they will cease their “military activity” from May 25-29, during the country’s elections.

“We are fully willing, but they’re still murdering leaders,” he said. “There are attacks on the peace process, on people in Colombia who are legally opposing” the government.

“We are willing to implement a cease-fire, but, what about the rest?”, Beltran added. “It’s not only a call to the military forces, but also to paramilitary factions, as well as (a cessation of) this whole attack on various civilian sectors.”

Beltran also said that ELN fighters are worried, often asking him if “things will be the same” with them and he warned of a potential return to arms as a response to attacks from the right.

He also referred to an online statement by FARC groups calling to rearm in response to statements by prominent right-wing leaders, who are urging “tear(ing) the peace process to shreds.”

“This is a very serious matter,” Beltran added. “But the reaction to this is starting to become serious as well.”

The unease was exacerbated by the arrest of former FARC fighter Jesus Santrich – who has been on a hunger strike since April 9 – by request of the US Drug Enforcement Administration early last month with an eye toward having him extradited to the US.

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