Petro’s Road to ‘Total Peace’ for Colombia Passes Through Venezuela

Petro’s Road to ‘Total Peace’ for Colombia Passes Through Venezuela
Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Venezuelan Transportation Minister Ramon Araguayan attend the reopening of the Simon Bolivar International Bridge between Cucuta, Colombia, and San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, Sept. 26, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has been in office just under three months, but he is moving quickly on the ambitious plan he calls “Total Peace,” which was a central plank of his election campaign. A key aspect of that plan is resuming negotiations with the largest remaining rebel group in Colombia—the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

The Colombian government had been involved in peace talks in Havana, Cuba, with the group until 2019, when it suspended them after an ELN truck-bombing of a police academy in Bogota. Earlier this month, Petro’s government announced it would reopen talks with the ELN, to be held this time in Caracas, Venezuela, with mediation assistance from Norway and Cuba. Both sides also invited officials from the United Nations and the Catholic Church to attend.

Because of the ELN’s significant presence in Venezuela, tensions between Bogota and Caracas have long been an obstacle to pursuing peace. Petro’s predecessor, former President Ivan Duque, severed diplomatic relations with Venezuela in August 2019, shortly after assuming office, and both countries have deployed their militaries to their shared border on several occasions in recent years.

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