News / Americas

Colombia Demands Release of Hostages Before Any ELN Peace Talks

FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, April 17, 2013FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, April 17, 2013
FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, April 17, 2013
FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, April 17, 2013
Colombia will not enter peace talks with the country's second-biggest guerrilla group, the ELN, until it releases captives including a Canadian citizen held hostage since January, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday.
The National Liberation Army, a rebel group with about 3,000 fighters known as ELN, has expressed interest in seeking a peace accord similar to the one being discussed in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
The ELN seized Canadian geologist Jernoc Wobert in northern Bolivar province along with two Peruvian and three Colombian miners contracted by gold mining company Braeval Mining . His five colleagues were later freed by the rebels.
“Eventually, if the ELN decides to enter, and for us to agree, it has to free its captives, above all the Canadian it holds,'' Santos said during an address to soldiers in Bogota.
The FARC has been hammering out peace terms with government negotiators since November to bring an end to five decades of war that has killed more than 100,000 people. The government wants a peace agreement signed by the end of this year.
Santos' demands come a day after the ELN conditioned Wobert's release on Braeval Mining handing over mining rights to people living close to its installations in northern Colombia.
The rebel group, like the FARC, objects to foreign companies exploiting the land and damaging the environment. Both insurgent groups want the government to change the way it deals with overseas investors, something the government has refused to consider.
Colombia, a nation of 46 million, has attracted record foreign direct investment in recent years as government troops push the ELN and FARC guerrilla groups deeper into the thick jungles and make it harder for them to launch attacks.
But the rebels have managed to remain relevant, striking at oil and mining companies and causing damage to the nation's economic drivers.
The ELN, inspired by the Cuban revolution and established by radical Catholic priests, has battled a dozen governments since it was founded in 1964. It has sought peace before, holding talks in Cuba and Venezuela between 2002 and 2007.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Cash Squeeze Maims Venezuela's Pre-election Food Imports

Hit by recession and slump in oil prices, crunch hurts Pres. Maduro's bid to fill shelves with imported meat, dairy products and medicines before Dec. 6 vote

Argentina's Ex-President Menem Sentenced for Embezzlement

Menem is currently a senator representing La Rioja province where he was born, that status as a lawmaker protects him from being imprisoned

Colombia Declines Rebel Extradition to US Amid FARC Peace Talks

Move seen as a goodwill gesture as part of peace negotiations that are approaching a March deadline

Temple Passageway May Lead to Aztec Ruler's Tomb, Experts Say

Aztecs are thought to have cremated leaders' bodies but burial site hasn't been found, so discovery at Mexico City's Templo Mayor ruin could prove significant

US-Cuba Talks Underway; Focus on Migrants, Illegal Drugs

Officials from both countries are meeting in Washington as part of efforts to normalize bilateral relations which had been frozen for half a century

Brazil Sues BHP, Vale for $5 Billion in Damages for Mine Disaster

The damburst unleashed 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste that demolished a nearby village, killing at least 13 people