BOGOTA – The Colombian government told Cuba on Monday there are no agreements that protect terrorism and so repeated its request that the Caribbean island hand over members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who form part of its peace delegation, after the guerrilla group admitted it carried out the attack on the Cadet School that left 20 dead in Bogota last Thursday.
“The national government insists on the immediate surrender of the ELN delegation members currently in Cuba, and for a very good reason – the ELN acknowledges its accountability (for the terrorist attack) and as an organization it must be held responsible,” Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos told a press conference.
Last Friday, Colombian President Ivan Duque reactivated arrest warrants for 10 ELN members who make up the guerrilla group’s delegation in Cuba, scene of the negotiations, which Havana opposed Saturday citing diplomatic protocol.
“Cuba will act with strict respect for the Peace Dialogue Protocols signed by the government and the ELN, including the Protocol in Case of a Breakdown of Negotiations,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez posted on Twitter.
To which Ceballos answered Monday that once those dialogues are broken off, “we (the Colombian government) will never renew them,” since Duque has said since taking office that the talks depend on the ELN releasing all the hostages it is holding and renouncing all criminal activities.
“We as a government cannot allow that a protocol be applied so that certain men can return to their ranks in Colombia and immerse themselves in the jungle to hide from the law,” the peace commissioner said, adding that “there is no judicial reason, no political reason, no ethical reason” that justifies protecting members of the ELN.
For his part, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo Garcia told the press that Cuba is obliged to hand over the ELN delegates that are on the Caribbean island.
“The Cuban government has the international obligation to put the arrest warrants into effect...to apprehend those members of the terrorist group and hand them over to the authorities,” he said.
With regard to the impact that this situation can have on Colombia’s relations with the island, the foreign minister said: “Our relations with Cuba in this specific case we understand to be a relationship of cooperation between two nations committed to efficiently combating terrorism.”