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Colombia: Killings of peasant leaders cast doubt on peace holding

COLOMBIA’S ELN rebels questioned the government’s commitment to peace on Monday amid a wave of peasant-leader killings.

In a statement to reporters, ELN chief negotiator Pablo Beltran expressed “serious doubts” about the government’s good faith in talks due to begin in Ecuador’s capital Quito in two weeks.

“Despite a conciliatory language on the table, in daily life the political persecution of the left and anyone who thinks differently keeps increasing, while deaths keep mounting,” he said.

Earlier, ELN leader Nicolas “Gabino” Rodriguez said he was worried government calls to give the peace process time risked “obstructing” it, and that “marginalised majorities” were being excluded.

The wave of assassinations against campesino leaders in recent months has continued despite the breakthrough peace accord with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) last year.

Two Farc guerillas were also ambushed and killed last year by troops on their way to a demobilisation area as part of the deal.

Meanwhile Farc commander-in-chief Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono said the movement’s new political party would be “open, democratic and modern.”

He said the electoral party would accommodate “all those who want positive change for Colombia, with a dignified life and sovereignty.”

Timochenko said the decision to widen its scope was made at the Farc’s recent central general staff meeting in the remote Yari savannah, where the body was expanded from 23 to 61 members.

The Farc’s Felix “Pastor Alape” Munoz said he welcomed French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Bogota on Sunday in support of the peace process.

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