Open letter to the ELN

By Carlos Medina Gallego

ELN combatants Women

ELN combatants Women

Six “perceptions” of the government which impede the start of the public dialogue with the ELN…



Antonio García, Pablo Beltrán and other Member of the Central Commend of the ELN (COCE) and the National Directorate.

For various months, the Colombian nation and, particularly, important democratic sectors and social movements, friends and anonymous artisans of the peace process, have been waiting for the announcement by the government and the ELN of the start of the public dialogue on an agenda where, in the words of Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista: “not even a comma is missing…”. Nevertheless, the long awaited announcement has not materialized.

It’s possible that each of the parties has its own explanation, and the requisite trust and circumstances have not ripened yet for the process to proceed. My impression is that the national government has six perceptions which do not provide sufficient motivation to put this process in place, notwithstanding the urgency to bring to a definitive closure the armed conflict. Undoubtedly, you have your own perceptions of the government.

I am taking the liberty of listing them, in case you find it useful and pertinent to the process.

First. The national government thinks that there is a moral dependence like a debt of the organization which does not allow it to separate from the Venezuelan process. The tight connection of the organization with the Venezuelan government of President Maduro and its solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution, to which they have committed themselves in defending the advances of the opposition, creates certain trepidation in the decision making.

The Venezuelan crisis, without a doubt, must offer, for the good of Venezuelans, a political solution that helps strengthen a less polarizing and more inclusive democracy. The worst that could happen to Venezuela is to fall into civil war. Venezuelans of all sectors must learn to live with their differences and respect their adversary. The ELN must assess this situation and assume independently its own process, without this being an abandonment of its political solidarity.

Thanking Venezuela for its assistance and committing itself completely to start the peace process is, in the government’s opinion, a necessity.

Second. The government considers that the Bloque Nororiental led by the Frente Domingo Laín (FDL) is strong and the entry of “Pablito” in the COCE means that the ELN wants to keep a united front regarding the peace process. For the government, “Pablito’s” declarations of support for the peace process are not sufficient because the government considers that in practice the FDL is taking over the organization and there is no sector authentically supporting the peace.

Notwithstanding the repeated declarations of willingness from the FDL, the government considers that these should be made explicit at the discussion table, to give assurances to the process and not give the government the impression of jumping into the abyss.

Third. Still, the government is not convinced that the ELN has taken with enough conviction the decision to drop the weapons within the framework of a political settlement process and considers that the ELN is still active in its armed fetishism which it finds difficult to overcome. The government does not see in the declarations of the V Congress a solid decision taken in that regard, but rather a “maybe”.

Perhaps the most courageous and important military decision that an army general takes is to end a war and this decision, according to the government, has not been taken within the ELN.

The NUPALOM slogan is still very much alive and it corresponds more with the intention of war than the disposition for peace.

Fourth. The government is under the impression that since there is no final decision to go the war, the ELN’ s objective is to use the dialogues to air out “all of the country’s problems”, giving legitimacy to the fight and waiting for the dialogues to fail at some point and for whatever reason

The government is concerned that the ELN’s strategy is to delay the conversations and not reach any substantial agreement while the dialogues are exhausted. Therefore the government considers that it will enter a peace process only if there is real interest to end the armed conflict and not a perceived interest to exhaust the expectations of peace and for the process to become a political and mass media tool.

Fifth. The national government considers that the so called “Barras Bravas” exert a negative influence over the organization in that they, while not participating in the war, consider that “any peace process is a betrayal to the causes of the people.” The civil society is considered overvalued and the contribution that it can make to the struggle for social justice is thought to be best achieved through its own channels, with more legitimacy.

Six. The government has the perception that the internal power struggles don’t allow the process of political settlement to advance with sufficient force and vitality and there is still no unified objective for the peace in the command of the ELN. The government thinks that there is a fragmentation of opinion with respect to taking on the process and no one wants to pay the price of being considered “the weakest”, from a “radical” thinking perspective, because they are the most objective and realistic.

All of these “perceptions” that are not made explicit by the government through its peace team keep the exploratory phase paralyzed before it can move to the public table.

The entire country hopes that the government and the ELN get over their insecurities and distrust, that both parties reach the public table and put an end to this interminable exploratory phase.

I hope that this letter helps for the necessary thinking to be done and relevant comments to be sent, if no confidentiality is breached.

A great homage would be done to the revolutionary priest CAMILO TORRES RESTREPO if, before the commemoration of 50 years since his physical disappearance, the ELN would announce to the country, along with the Government, the establishment of the PUBLIC TABLE and that in such process the organization will take the initiative to arrive from the armed conflict to the political one and take up jointly, with other social and political forces, the colors of the United Front of the People in a democratic manner.


Carlos Medina Gallego, Professor – Researcher Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Centro de Pensamiento y Seguimiento al Proceso de Paz


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