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Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Colombia calls ELN rebels back to peace talks


Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate, greets people after they cast their vote during the legislative elections in Bogota, Colombia March 11, 2018.

Colombians went to the polls on Sunday to elect members of Congress in what President Juan Manuel Santos touted as "the most peaceful elections" in decades thanks to peace talks with the country's guerrilla groups.

Duque, a protégé of former president Alvaro Uribe, backs foreign investment and an aggressive security strategy meant to combat the country's remaining rebel group, which regularly bombs oil pipelines.

But Santos is ineligible for reelection in May's presidential vote and with his critics bolstered by Sunday's results, it is unsure exactly what peace will look like when he leaves office.

With 99.67 percent of the tally sheets processed, Petro won the official candidacy for his coalition with 2,848,868 votes or 84.69 percent, while Carlos Caicedo, the former mayor of Santa Marta, got 514,805 (15.3 percent).

This is the first time the FARC- previously known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and now known as Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, preserving their FARC initials- appears on a ballot and comes after thousands of members handed in their weapons under the deal signed with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016, which ended more than 52 years of war.

He has been vocal in his opposition to the 2016 FARC accord, which could stymie implementation if he wins.

Finally, Almagro reiterated the unbreakable commitment of the hemispheric organization to continue to accompany social and institutional efforts to build peace through the Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OAS), which is celebrating 14 years of uninterrupted work in the most isolated territories and those most affected by armed violence in Colombia.

"We are convinced that dialogue is the best path to peace".

The deal guaranteed the party five seats in the Senate and five seats in the lower house through 2026, regardless of the number of votes it receives in elections.

For his part, former minister Pinzon also said that presidential elections start this March 12.

They both favour improvements to infrastructure and tax cuts for businesses, though Fajardo is considered left-leaning.

Radical Change, the party of former Vice President German Vargas Lleras, saw a surge in support and was on course to win 16 Senate seats.

Other candidates include Liberal party elder statesman Humberto de la Calle, who lead government negotiators at FARC talks, and former defence minister and USA ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon.

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