Colombia Peace Talks: FARC Leader Says ELN Must Be Part of Peace Negotiations
In an effort to bring a fellow Marxist group into peace talks with Colombia, FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has asked the government to include the ELN (National Liberation Army) in future peace negotiations.
Colombia's government has been in conflict with FARC for more than 50 years now, but for two years they have been meeting in Havana, Cuba to reconcile and reach a peace agreement.
Although there are no precise numbers on how many young people have been recruited to the organization, FARC is notorious for getting minors involved in their cause. As reported in The Tico Times, a young woman named Aurora, who grew up doing hard labor on a farm in central Colombia, describes being educated by FARC, saying: “I was just about 13 when I used a gun for the first time.”
“They taught us lessons in a classroom. We learned a lot of stuff, like how to defend ourselves from the enemy,” she added.
Timeleon Jimenez, also known as Timochenko, the leader of FARC, has said he considers adding the ELN to the peace talks an urgent matter.
In a move that was welcomed by the U.N. in Bogota, President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Monday via Twitter that he had in fact facilitated a meeting between the leaders of the FARC and the ELN.
Critics of President Santos' accommodation of Jimenez’s request say that, by trying to include the ELN in the peace talks, the president is simply indulging in FARC's delaying tactics.
On the official FARC Peace Delegation website Jimenez stated: "We believe that not only we, as revolutionary insurgency, find it urgent to link the National Liberation Army to the peace talks; the national government and the whole of the Colombian population feel the need, too. It is the right and the most practical thing to do."
According to the BBC, the Colombian government has been secretly negotiating with the ELN, which has around 2,000 fighters and was set up in 1964, for more than a year.