COLOMBIA: Santos To Resume Talks With The ELN

Colombian voters head to polls amidst wider regional instability

Colombian left-wingers advocate investment in education, as well as strong support for a recent peace deal with Marxist rebels, to combat profound inequality.

Several rounds of talks had been held over the course of the previous year in the capital of neighboring Ecuador, but Santos suspended them following a series of attacks on police stations that left 6 people dead and dozens more wounded.

"I have instructed the head of the negotiating team, Gustavo Bell, to travel to Quito and reactivate the dialogue", the president said.

The former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are now the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, a leftist political party that has candidates running for congressional seats.

The ELN said in a statement it would answer Santos' call to return to negotiations and reiterated the desire for another bilateral ceasefire.

"There's now sure to be at the presidential level a shake out of candidates over the coming weeks as we approach the first round - Petro can't yet be completely discounted but he looks further from his goal today compared with Friday", said Rupert Stebbings, managing director of equities at Grupo Bancolombia.

The success of the conservative parties, which were opposed to the 2016 peace deal with the rebel group, raises questions about the future of the agreement.

By contrast, numerous accord's critics picked up seats, with the Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe headed to being the biggest bloc in the Senate.

But "it is the only option that Santos has - try to calm the conflict with the ELN, reduce confrontation with the army to a minimum", analyst Camilo Echandia of Externado University told Agence France-Presse.

The FARC is guaranteed five seats in both the 108-member Senate and the 172-member lower house under the terms of the accord.

Despite political irrelevance and a creeping anxiety about the glacial implementation of the accord, many rank and file Farc members remain committed to peace.

Centrist and leftist parties polled well, keeping the right-wing parties from receiving a majority.

Mr Santos said his decision was inspired by the success of talks with the biggest rebel group, Farc.

The ELN has about 1,500 fighters.

The group has sought peace with the government before but made little progress.

"It is very unlikely that the next government will agree to negotiate such an imprecise, general agenda, with so few possibilities of obtaining results", said Echandia.



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