Santos Ready for Peace Talks with ELN if Canadian Hostage Freed

By Dialogo
August 05, 2013

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on August 1 he is willing to start peace talks with the leftist ELN rebels as soon as they release a Canadian hostage, held since January.

The ELN, or the National Liberation Army, has on numerous occasions expressed interest in negotiating with the government.

Santos had previously insisted any talks would be conditional on the group releasing hostages and abandoning the practice of kidnapping in general.

The ELN had rejected those demands, but it has said previously it would be willing to release the hostage, Canadian mining engineer Jernoc Wobert, soon.

This week, the rebels said the release was “closer”, after Wobert’s employer, Braeval Mining, announced it was giving up its mining rights in Colombia because of “unfavorable market conditions, and plans to refocus its efforts on its other projects.”

Wobert, 47, was abducted by ELN rebels in January along with two Peruvians and three Colombians also working for Toronto-based Braeval Mining, which has been prospecting for gold and silver in northern Colombia.

The South Americans were released a month later, but the ELN, the smaller of Colombia’s two leftist rebel groups, with about 2,000 fighters, has held onto the Canadian.

The guerrilla group in recent years has targeted Colombia’s oil and mining industries, kidnapping workers and blowing up installations.