Beginning Aug. 14 and through Sept. 4, a fourth round of peace talks is taking place in Caracas, Venezuela, between the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro and the guerrilla commanders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), accompanied by the Catholic Church.

Among the issues that will be addressed, in addition to pacification, are those of agrarian reform and institutional reform in Colombia.

In a Dec. 2, 2022, letter addressed to the participants in the talks, Archbishop Luis José Rueda Aparicio, president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, accepted the Church’s role to accompany the peace process, noting that representing the Church would be Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao “who, with his experience and wisdom, accompanied by our prayers, will be ready to collaborate in whatever is required to consolidate this long-awaited process for the good of our country.”

Thus the Church is not a participant, mediator, or simply an observer but with its presence is ready to assist in any way it can to bring about the desired peace.

The ELN is the most important armed group remaining in the country after the peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The talks between President Gustavo Petro and ELN Commander Pablo Beltrán — who have the United Nations as guarantors, among other actors — will take place while a six-month cease-fire, which began on Aug. 3, is maintained.

In an Aug. 14 joint communiqué, both delegations declared that they “reaffirm their conviction about the importance of the participation of society in this process and of the transformations as the basis for peace and a national accord and that progress in the talks is equally reflected in compliance with the schedule established for the implementation of the social participation agreements and the cease-fire.”

Regarding the bilateral, national, and temporary cease-fire, the delegations pledged to “expand the mandate of the verification mission of the U.N. Security Council and to implement the monitoring and verification mechanism throughout the country and open channels of communication to avoid confrontations.”

In the last point of the communiqué, the parties state that “the delegations will continue developing these two agreements. Likewise, they will deal with other relevant issues regarding the development of the dialogue agenda and the peace process and that the results of these efforts will be communicated to the public in a timely manner.”

Finally, the Colombian government and the ELN expressed their thanks for “the hospitality and the efforts that have made possible this new round of talks by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

More in Americas

They also expressed their gratitude “to the guarantor countries and to the special representative of the U.N. secretary general, Carlos Ruiz Massieu … [and] to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia and the group of countries for support, accompaniment, and cooperation.”

At the Aug. 14 opening ceremony for the start of the fourth round of peace talks, the archbishop emeritus of Cali, Darío Monsalve, expressed on behalf of the Church and the institutions that are accompanying this dialogue his willingness “so that these days in Caracas are productive and allow us to reach substantive agreements, which have as their center those who for decades have been suffering the effects of the armed conflict.”

The Church “encourages the parties to continue implementing the commitments they have made and continue to make progress — in a concrete and effective way — for the construction of a comprehensive and inclusive peace,” Monsalve concluded.

Beltrán, head of the ELN delegation, said the peace effort carried out by the delegations “is not always well understood and when contributions are made — and are not sufficiently valued — it is more difficult to make them. The ELN, when it comes to these peace processes, comes to make agreements and to fulfill agreements.”

Otty Patiño, head of the delegation of the Republic of Colombia, stated that “the peace that we are making with the ELN must contribute to the construction of a state with full democracy; that is, a sovereign state that makes the sovereignty of other countries respected, especially that of neighboring countries.”

The peace talks resumed in November 2022 after being suspended for more than three years.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

(Story continues below)