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Peace talks will not slow Colombia’s offensive against armed groups -officials

New peace talks with Colombia’s insurgency have not stalled the country’s offensives against armed groups, drug traffickers and illegal miners, two
senior officials said on Wednesday.

November 24, 2022
24 November 2022

BOGOTA, Nov 23 (Reuters) – New peace talks with
Colombia’s insurgency have not stalled the country’s offensives
against armed groups, drug traffickers and illegal miners, two
senior officials said on Wednesday.

“We have not ceased military operations against the
different persistent threats attacking the civilian population,”
the head of Colombia’s Military Forces, General Helder Giraldo,
said during a news conference.

The message comes after President Gustavo Petro’s government
began peace talks this week with the leftist guerrilla group,
the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Petro took office in August as Colombia’s first ever
left-wing president with a promise to fight poverty and end
violence that has lasted for six decades. The armed conflict
left at least 450,000 dead between 1985 and 2018, according to
data from the country’s truth commission.

Colombia’s political opposition accuse Petro, a former
member of the M-19 insurgency, of neglecting security and
reducing pressure on illegal armed groups.

But “the fact that they (the government and ELN) are at this
moment in the peace talks does not mean a lowering of guard or
fewer actions,” Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said during a
press conference with Giraldo.

Since Petro’s inauguration on Aug. 7, there have been over
ninety clashes with armed groups, one per day, resulting in the
detention of 3,816 combatants and 23 deaths, Giraldo said.

In the three months of the current government, eight
soldiers have died and 40 injured, while 107 tonnes of cocaine
have been confiscated, the official added.

The military and national police are taking action against
armed groups to target their earnings from the drug trade –
considered by analysts and sources as the main fuel of the
conflict – as well as from illegal gold mining, Velasquez said.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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