The President said that peace talks have led to an agreement to allow the Embera people to return to their lands.
Colombia has reached an agreement in peace talks with the ELN terrorist group to allow the Embera people to return to their territories in the west of the country, President Gustavo Petro said.
The deal is the first major breakthrough in ongoing peace talks between the government and the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest remaining rebel group.
The talks, aimed at ending the country’s decades-long conflict, resumed last month in Venezuela after being suspended in 2019.
“The first point we agreed with the ELN – just one week after these talks – is the return of the Embera people… Colombia.
Petro did not say when the Embera will return to their lands in the departments of Choco and Risaralda in western Colombia. He fled violence between drug gangs, right-wing militias and the ELN.
Most of the Embera refugees now live in the capital of Colombia and stage spectacular demonstrations in parks, frequently clashing with the police.
As of Saturday, the ELN representatives at the talks did not say anything about the humanitarian agreement on Embera.
The push for peace talks came from Colombia’s new left-wing President Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 gang.
After taking office in August, the President engaged the ELN as part of his policy of “full peace” and negotiations resumed despite no end to the two parties.
However, the ELN promised to allow “humanitarian measures” as part of the peace talks its leaders signed with the government of then President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016.
That year, Santos signed a peace deal with Colombia’s largest and oldest terrorist group, the FARC. FARC and ELN operate in different parts of the country.
Previous attempts to negotiate with the ELN, which has about 2,500 soldiers according to the development group Indepaz, have made little progress due to disagreements between them.
ELN leaders say the group is united, but it is not clear how the negotiators hold their positions. The group operates mainly in the Pacific region and along the 2,200km (1,370-mile) border with Venezuela.
Negotiations between the ELN and Santos were suspended in 2019 by Santos’ successor, Ivan Duque, after the ELN bombed a police academy in Bogota.