Exclusive: ELN Leader Talks Fidel, Peace and Colombian Politics

“Fidel has received us many times since the 1980s in a bid to support the peace process in Colombia,” the ELN leader told teleSUR.

Pablo Beltran, commander in chief of the Army of National Liberation, talked Sunday to teleSUR from Quito, Ecuador, where the peace talks with the Colombian government are expected to start in January 2017.

The leader mourned the loss of Fidel, saying it represented “a major void for the world.”

“Fidel’s legacy in Cuba is immense, especially in health and education, I believe that the Cuban people are Fidelista at heart, and this will never fade away,” he said to teleSUR.

“Fidel has received us many times since the 1980s in a bid to support the peace process in Colombia,” he commented.

He added that now that Fidel is dead and Chavez is dead, former President Alvaro Uribe was left without a program, as his main campaign consisted in fighting “Castro-Chavism” in Colombia.

As for the peace process that has yet to enter its public phase, Beltran explained that this stage has been delayed since March 30, when both parts agreed to go public, but “then we had to negotiate again for six months what would be on the agenda, because a far-right party then blamed the government for not including another chapter.”

The fact that the ELN was not part of the negotiations in Havana between the FARC and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos’ was completely the Colombian president’s doing, he added.

The differences between the ELN and the FARC have to do with justice, in his opinion: “We want the entire truth about what happened, what brought us to this level of violence, we want a recognition that this was the wrong way,” he said, adding the ELN was ready to apologize and seek reconciliation. “We put more emphasis on truth, the whole peace process should be grounded in truth,” he emphasized to teleSUR.

More recently, the negotiations in Quito have been delayed over “legal issues” about the release of prisoners, according to Beltran. “On Oct. 6, we agreed to release a prisoner, in exchange for a political pardon for two prisoners, but now the Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether the president is allowed to grant pardons in these circumstances.” Negotiations are expected to start in a week, he assured.

Six countries will act as guarantors of the process, including Norway, Chile, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador. A few rounds of confidential negotiations have been held in Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil.

The importance of holding the negotiations in the Andean country also lies in the fact that Ecuador has been like a second homeland for many Colombian refugees — over 60,000 Colombians are reportedly living in the country. “We feel grateful for such solidarity, and we hope that peace will help to repatriate all these people back to the country,” he told teleSUR.

According to Beltran, the referendum for peace was really a tie between two minorities in Colombia: those who support the yes, and those who support the no, “and 63 percent did not care about the future fate of their country, either because of fear or apathy.”

The political system is designed to make people indifferent, according to the ELN leader, and that’s the reason why the ELN “really wants to change the system, to create the conditions so society participates.”

“We have hoped to become a political party since the congress we held a few years ago,” he said. However, funding might be an issue as in Havana, the government and the FARC have already decided that the new political parties will not receive any public funding, he added.

Santos is not sending a peaceful message while he has been negotiating the inclusion of Colombia in NATO. Moreover, every day rural leaders are being assassinated, there is political persecution. “If social protest is still being criminalized, then there is no space for peace. Political struggle should be peaceful,” he said.

About the presidency of Donald Trump, Beltran quoted U.S. prominent intellectual Noam Chomsky saying that the most dangerous aspect of Trump was his unpredictability, “We still cannot say how it is going to impact Latin America.”

by teleSUR / md-RT-mk

teleSUR, December 5, 2016


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