One of the most complicated issues on the electoral agenda is undoubtedly that of the ELN and the situation on the border with Venezuela.
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LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio
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The presidential elections in Colombia are getting closer, the appointment will be next May 29. The electoral agenda moves towards the most complicated issues for the candidates, one of them is undoubtedly the relationship with Venezuela, especially when the ELN is part of the equation. Human Rights Watch has issued a report showing the seriousness of the situation at the border.
Human Rights Watch sees a serious situation
The opacity that exists around the situation on the border between Colombia and Venezuela has reached a critical point, various organizations have denounced for years the seriousness of the matter. Human Rights Watch has issued a report in which it emphasizes the violations of the individual guarantees of thousands of people on both sides of the border, generating displaced persons due to the wave of violence unleashed by the territorial dispute between the ELN, the Joint Command of the East (FARC dissidents) and the complicity of members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
According to the report, so far this year more than 3,800 people have been displaced in the interior of Arauca and 3,300 have fled from Venezuela to Colombia due to the atmosphere of violence that has left more than 100 dead. Rights violations include forced disappearances, murders and attacks, among other abuses. In addition to this, HRW asks the Colombian government to seek strategies to guarantee the rights of displaced persons regardless of their nationality.
Colombia, at the gates of the elections
The resolution of the humanitarian crisis on the border with Venezuela seems far away, therefore, it has become a problem for the next administration. Different issues have been present on the electoral agenda, one of the most relevant is security, the difficult situation related to the ELN and Venezuela has put the candidates to the test to propose solutions to the crisis that exists on the Colombian borders. In this regard, this is the position of the candidates.
In the Prisa Media debate held in January, the Historical Pact candidate declared that there was the possibility of a rapprochement with the different dissident groups of the FARC and the ELN. His position has been clear: respect the peace agreements already signed. He is a character who, to a certain extent, has given the ELN the benefit of the doubt when he has been singled out. Now, the issue of Venezuela is a bit different, his leftist position has not made him an unconditional supporter of Nicolás Maduro, on numerous occasions he has been critical, but at the same time, he has expressed his desire to normalize relations with them with a principle of non-interference.
In the debate on March 14, the Team for Colombia candidate expressed himself on the issue of Venezuela, Gutiérrez has been critical of the Maduro regime and has declared that he will not reestablish relations with the neighboring country. In an interview with Semana magazine, he declared that to negotiate with the ELN the only condition is that they stop the violence, for Gutiérrez there is a dark symbiosis between the ELN and Venezuela, hence his refusal to negotiate with Nicolás Maduro.
#AlAireEnLaW | "Toda esa violencia que está ocurriendo en Arauca y Norte de Santander tiene un cómplice y ese es Nicolás Maduro": Federico Gutiérrez (@FicoGutierrez) #ColombiaGanaCon https://t.co/deeRj9GsGL pic.twitter.com/bHSrL23aqY— W Radio Colombia (@WRadioColombia) March 8, 2022
Fajardo is aware of the economic importance that Venezuela represents for the country, he is clear that part of the origin of the crisis on the border is due to the deterioration of relations between the two countries, therefore, among his proposals is the need for consular protection for Colombians in Venezuela and the establishment of direct communication between Caracas and Bogotá to face common problems. As for the ELN, via Twitter he spoke out against the armed group, whose "struggle" he accused had become mere terrorism.
El ELN nos está demostrando cada semana su desdén por la vida, la naturaleza y el bienestar de los colombianos. Su “lucha” armada quedó en puro terrorismo.— Sergio Fajardo (@sergio_fajardo) February 23, 2022
In his government plan, the candidate includes the issue of the ELN. On page 52 of said document, he assures that the path is to include the ELN as a signatory party to the already existing agreements with the FARC. As for Venezuela, it has one of the most solid proposals beyond the political and ideological background: it calls for the reestablishment of consular and economic relations with its neighbor. In his government plan, he details that from 2008 to 2020 the exchange went from $7,200 USD to $221 USD, just 3% of what it was, which he sees as a great opportunity, especially for the economy of the border strip, understanding the importance history of Venezuela for the Colombian economy.
In the debate on March 14, the candidate assured that in order to reestablish relations with Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro must hand over the main leaders of the FARC dissidents, organized crime including drug trafficking, and those of the National Liberation Army. For Betancourt, a victim of kidnapping by this type of group, her position is firm: fight against them.