BOGOTA – The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group said arrangements were being made for the release on Thursday of a former Colombian congressman held captive since April 2016.
“The ELN is keeping its word to free Odin Sanchez ... The protocol for his release was launched on Jan. 31. On Feb. 1, military operations were suspended, and tomorrow delegates from the guarantor countries, two members of the ELN’s peace delegation, one from the government and two from the (International Committee of the Red Cross) will arrive,” alias “Uriel,” the leader of the group holding Sanchez, told RCN Radio on Wednesday.
Sanchez will be handed over to his family after undergoing a medical examination by ICRC doctors, he added.
The former lawmaker is in good health although ELN doctors have treated him for an ulcer, hypertension and other ailments, according to Uriel.
In March of last year, the ELN and President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration announced their intention to launch formal peace talks in Quito. But those plans have been stymied because the ELN has not yet heeded the government’s demand to free all captives in its possession.
Political analysts say the ELN, which has been blamed for the Jan. 24 capture of army soldier Fredy Moreno Mahecha, is sending mixed messages and thwarting peace negotiations by announcing the release of the former legislator while at the same time carrying out other kidnappings.
Santos’ government and the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgency held nearly four years of peace talks that concluded successfully last year.
Colombian army generals and leaders of the FARC shook hands in the northern town of Pondores on Wednesday to mark the official end of a conflict that began in 1964.
“Peace with the FARC is a reality in Colombia,” Gen. Javier Florez told more than 100 guerrillas gathered in the town to demobilize under the terms of a revised peace accord signed in November.