President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador abruptly announced in an interview Wednesday that his country would cease participating in peace talks between Colombia and the communist guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN).
The announcement follows a tragic week for Ecuador in which FARC terrorists abducted and killed three of the nation’s journalists.
The move also marks a significant departure for Moreno from his socialist predecessor, Rafael Correa, one of the closest allies of the socialist Venezuelan regime on the continent during his tenure. While Moreno ran for the presidency as a member of Correa’s PAIS Alliance political party, he has moved the nation’s foreign policy significantly to the right.
Abandoning its mediator role between the Colombian government and the ELN is another sign that Moreno seeks to break the ties Correa developed with the continent’s major Marxist actors.
“I have requested that the Ecuadorian foreign minister freeze conversations with the ELN and our status as guarantor of this peace process, so long as the group does not commit to abandoning terrorist activity,” Moreno told Colombia’s RCN news.
The Associated Press reports that Moreno’s declaration “appeared to have caught off guard Colombia’s government, which initially denied having been informed of the decision and then scrambled to play down its significance.” The administration of Juan Manuel Santos, which has made peace talks with terrorist organizations a cornerstone of its policy, issued a statement through its foreign ministry stating that it “understands the pain of President Moreno and Ecuadoreans for the recent, tragic events” and vowed not to “give up” its peace talks with terrorists.
The tragic events referred to are a string of kidnapping on the Ecuadorian-Colombian border by Marxist terrorists. On March 26, Quito confirmed that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had abducted three journalists working for the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio: Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas, and Efraín Segarra. By last week, the FARC terrorists had killed all three.
The FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government in October 2016, despite Colombians rejecting the deal in a national referendum. The deal required the lower-level fighters – many abducted from their rural villages and forced to commit acts of terror as children – to hand over their weapons and submit to a re-integration process that would provide them with the life skills to return to civilization. The deal allowed the leaders of the organization to form a political party and field candidates for office, and granted the FARC guaranteed seats in the Senate and the lower chamber. Many rank and file FARC members rejected the peace deal, as it granted them no benefits, and have continued engaging in abductions and violence; these are typically referred to in Colombian media as FARC “dissidents.”
Ecuadorian officials believe FARC dissidents are responsible for the abduction and death of the three journalists. The ELN peace process is modeled almost identically to that which emboldened the FARC.
Moreno, who identifies as a socialist, condemned the FARC terrorists responsible for the journalists’ deaths. “Being a revolutionary is being a better man, a better friend, a better father, and better son … these people are simply criminals,” he said. The deaths were the first documented abductions by a guerrilla in Ecuador since 1980.
On Thursday, Moreno announced a new investigation into FARC activities that may compromise his own party. Moreno reportedly ordered prosecutors to investigate a video allegedly showing FARC terrorists paying former head of state Correa in exchange for protection within Ecuador’s borders. The money reportedly went to Correa’s political campaigns.
“If this is true, this is a lack of ethics, morals, and lack of respect to what politics should be,” Moreno said.
FARC leaders called the abduction and murder of the El Comercio journalists “a barbarity” and “loudly condemned” the incidents. While FARC leaders appear determined to move away from violent crime and towards political power, many question their intentions of leaving crime behind. Santos’ government did not create a sufficiently rigorous financial inspection system to ensure that the FARC would not use ill-gotten gains from its transatlantic drug trade to fund political campaigns. Amid the 2018 election cycle, at least one FARC leader – “Jesús Santrich,” real name Seuxis Hernandez-Solarte – has been arrested so far as per a New York extradition request on charges of attempting to deliver ten tons of cocaine to proxies in the United States. FARC leaders have condemned his arrest as an attempt to sabotage the “peace process.”