President Petro's "lasting peace"


Ramon Espinosa / AP

With a truce between the government and rebels in Colombia, the story of Latin American guerrilla ends

The third cycle of negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) ended in Havana with the signing of the "Cuban Agreement." In the presence of Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel it was signed by the chief negotiators Otty Patiño from the government and Comandante Pablo Beltrán (Isreal Ramírez Pineda) from the guerrillas.

Before that, peace talks were held last November in Caracas, where the parties agreed to provide humanitarian assistance in the regions most affected by the armed conflict. And in February and March in Mexico City, where the Colombian authorities went along with the ELN and recognized it as a "political military organization," which contributed to the signing of the current agreement.

If there are no tragic provocations, new talks are planned again in Caracas in August or September of this year, when the truce agreement should come into force.

"In May 2025, the long-running war between the ELN and the state will finally end," President Petro solemnly proclaimed at the signing of the agreement in the protocol room of the Cuban government of El Laguito.

Incidentally, in his youth, Gustavo Petro himself was a member of the leftist guerrilla "19th of April Movement" (M19), which fought for power through violence and political assassination.

In Havana, the government and the guerrillas reached the following agreements: the offensive operations of the parties are to cease as of July 6, and a complete cease-fire is to take effect as of August 3. The stipulated duration of the national and temporary truce is 180 days.

At this time, mechanisms will be created to monitor, supervise and verify compliance with the terms of the truce, with the participation of representatives of the warring parties, guarantors (Cuba, Mexico, Norway and Venezuela) and international organizations, including the UN, as well as Colombian civil society organizations and the Catholic Church.

The "Cuban agreement" on a national and temporary cease-fire in Colombia, as recognized by local and international political organizations, is a significant step forward and gives some hope.

Since the 1980s, this is the first serious document signed during the armed confrontation of the ELN with the state power. In general, to varying degrees, Colombian governments have been actively negotiating with the guerrilla since at least 2012.

From the beginning, the ELN was a highly ideological organization, combining a mixture of Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist-Maoist doctrines with a liberation theology inspired by the struggle against inequality in Latin America.

Today the ELN, according to the Colombian Ombudsman's Office, has between 2,500 and 5,000 guerrillas and operates in rural areas in 22 of Colombia's 32 departments.

Colombian senator Ivan Cepeda, a participant in the negotiations, believes that these agreements open "a new page in Colombia's and Latin American governments' fight against guerrilla movements and crime in general. As for the guerrillas, the possible dissolution of the ELN could be the last call for the withdrawal of leftist guerrilla movements from the political arena.

Armed groups in Latin America and the Caribbean emerged in the 1960s as a response to Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution to change the existing unjust world and liberate it from Yankee imperialism by the left forces and a response by the extreme right to maintain the status quo.

Both resorted only to violent armed methods and fought mainly against peaceful civilians, mostly rural populations.

By the way, this was different from Fidel Castro's July 26 Movement, which from the beginning fought against the armed forces of dictator Batista and defended the population against the military and government lawlessness. Perhaps this is why no insurgent movement except the Sandinista Front in Nicaragua has come to power in its countries during this more than half-century of armed struggle.

It should be noted that the CIA has also done excellent work with the right and left, keeping them afloat during the "ebb and flow" of activity and pitting them against each other in order to manipulate puppet governments.

Today in Latin America there are eight small guerrilla movements left, most of them Trotskyist-Maoist, with different potentials, but all equally involved in criminally punishable activities.

In Colombia, the FARC and ELN "dissidents" who have formed the "Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces" (AGC) and the "Clan del Golfo" are fighting for territorial control over key areas of illicit drug trafficking and illegal mining, and they also engage in racketeering, kidnapping for ransom, and robbery.

In LAC, figuratively speaking, only a "fool" is not involved in the production and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. But if for the pro-government, business companies and the drug mafia it is a way to make fabulous profits, for peasants it is a way to survive (it is easier and more profitable to grow unpretentious coca than corn or rice), then for partisans it is a weapon in the fight against imperialism (at least it was before the Soviet Union and the socialist system collapsed).

Today in Colombia, the ELN is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union and is accused of being involved in the production and trafficking of cocaine to finance its activities.

This benefits the United States, which has "frozen" far-right fascist groups until better times and supports far-left militants to discredit the democratic national governments that have come in recent years.

Now, I hope, it becomes clear why the ELN and its head in negotiations with the government, Pablo Beltran, categorically dissociated himself from the drug trade and so insisted on recognizing the National Liberation Army as a political armed organization.

Understanding the importance of ending hostilities in the country, President Petro did everything possible, including obtaining UN approval, in resolving this issue. And by doing so he "tied the hands" of Washington, which they used to provoke and discredit his democratic government.

If President Petro succeeds in fulfilling this part of the promised "Lasting Peace," he will be able to tackle the other sore point: the fight against organized crime. And there has already been some progress.

The 16 leaders of criminal gangs, currently incarcerated in a high-security prison outside the gangster's "homeland" of Medellín, Colombia's second largest city, decided at their meeting to begin a dialogue with the government and discuss their reintegration into society.

"We want to take a new path: the path of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation," said Sebastián Murillo, leader of the drug trafficking group La Oficina, founded by Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar.

Since the Soviet Perestroika of the 1980s, right-wing Colombian governments have negotiated with politically motivated armed insurgent and criminal groups that have fueled an internal conflict resulting in an estimated 260,000 to 430,000 deaths.

In all these years, only one democratically elected president – the leftist Gustavo Petro – has come close to "lasting peace" in Colombia.