After releasing three hostages last Wednesday, Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) still has 16 soldiers and civilians under capture that President Iván Duque has demanded to be released in order to resume peace talks.
The guerrilla group said in a Monday statement that the new president’s conditions to continue talks of a peace agreement are “unacceptable.”
“By not recognizing the deals made with the state and adding, unilaterally, unacceptable conditions, this government is closing the negotiating table, ending the process of dialogue and the efforts made over several years by the ELN, society, the previous government and the international community,” read an ELN statement on the faction’s website.
The group wrote that it is committed to ending the conflict and plans to release the rest of the hostages in its possession, as long as the Colombian military tones down operations in Chocó, the town which has become a crucial base for the ELN.
Duque said last month during his inauguration ceremony that the rebels had 30 days to free the 19 hostages. With only three-set free and the deadline already expired, it is unclear how the government will proceed.
“I celebrate that in recent days various people have returned home, I celebrate that over the next hours more people will do so, but we need a convincing gesture to the Colombian people, and that must be the liberation of all the kidnapped,” Duque said over the weekend while speaking at an event.
In his campaign, Duque promised to be uncompromising against guerrilla group threats and turn around the perception that the previous administration was lenient in its peace accord to similar groups like the FARC.
The ELN statement said the group is actively looking to reinitiate peace talks.
“President Duque, keep in mind that the insurgency is the result of unresolved economic conditions, both political and social, that have persisted throughout Colombian history and not resolving them means perpetuating the armed conflict,” the ELN wrote in its Monday statement.