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The time has come for the ELN

By León Valencia for @infobae

Translation by: María Victoria Ramírez

Finally, the National Liberation Army —ELN (Ejéricito de Liberación Nacional)— has to sign the peace and come to civilian life. The conditions are peerless. The elected President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has defined that the first aim (axis) of his government will be comprehensive peace and reconciliation, and appointed Álvaro Leyva Minister of Foreign Affairs with the express mandate of seeking the greatest support in the international community to complete the agreements needed and give-wings to all post-conflict tasks.

Even in his inauguration speech, Petro named his other two axes like this: social peace and environmental peace, to underline the strength that the word "peace" will have throughout his term.

But there is something deeper that should push the ELN command to sign a peace agreement with the National Government with full decision and haste. We are at the end of a historical cycle. We are at the end of sixty years of war for democratization and political inclusion of the left. With Petro's victory, the most important reason why the left-wing insurgencies took up arms disappears: political and social exclusion, and the criminal lock on our democracy.

This long, irregular, dirty, painful war, in which all ethical barriers were broken, was a confrontation for power and democracy, for land and territory, and for legal and illegal income. The right, to strip it of its eminently political character, named it in many different ways: terrorist threat, narco-terrorism, war against society. The triumph of someone who was in arms and signed the peace, and his stubborn political action for thirty years, is the palpable demonstration that the DNA of the guerrilla was democracy and politics.

Neither the serious social inequality, nor the brutal concentration of land, nor the enormous gap between the regions and the centre, are resolved with the mere arrival of Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez to power. But with his arrival, the crucial problem of political exclusion begins to be overcome and an era of reform begins that will depend on the correlation of forces, citizen support, political alliances and, above all, an atmosphere of peace in which the rights do not have the pretext of security to rise up against the changes.

The ELN command must understand the great risk pending on their ideals if they are marginalized from peace at this time. Going forward, only the abyss of the dispute over illegal rents remains. The inclusion of the left and social movements in power strips violence of its political character. It is very useful that the ELN examines the votes in the last elections, the regions that voted YES in the plebiscite for peace, voted copiously in favor of Petro and Francia Márquez.

The ELN must put aside the idea that the change that has taken place is only a modification of the government, not of the political regime. The regime has suffered a huge shock. The deepening of the change now depends on accurate reforms to the economy, Congress, the Armed Forces and electoral bodies, and a new peace agreement is a virtuous push towards reformism.

In recent days I have stated that the best way to begin the path of an agreement between the ELN and the National government is: perfecting the cessation of hostilities that was being agreed upon at the end of the government of Juan Manuel Santos; enabling the participation of Juan Carlos Cuéllar in the national agreement called by President Gustavo Petro; and complying with the protocol for the return to Colombia of the guerrilla negotiating commission that is in Havana.

I haven't heard anything about the new High Commissioner for Peace. An smart appointment for this responsibility would be Francisco de Roux, who has successfully completed his work in the Truth Commission. This priest (who has already written glorious pages in Colombia) would render a new service in this country so in need of ethical references and spiritual.


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