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Colombia signs peace agreement with rebel force before Pope's visit

[JURIST] Colombia's government signed a peace agreement with the National Liberation Army (ELN) [InSight Crime profile] in Ecuador on Monday, two days before Pope Francis's visit to the country. In a speech on Monday, Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos [biography], said [press release, in Spanish] that the during the ceasefire agreement, the ELN pledged not to kidnap or harass citizens, or attack the nation's pipelines. "That is very important, because all this leads is to protect the Colombians," said Santos. He also called on the message of reconciliation that will be given by Pope Francis later in the week. The president said the deal would be renewed on January 12 if progress between the two groups is made. Colombia promised [InSight Crime press release] to suspend military operations against the group, improve conditions for imprisoned ELN members, and protect human rights defenders. The ELN is the last major guerrilla group [AP report] in Colombia.

In July Colombia granted amnesty [JURIST report] to members of FARC, the larger of the two guerrilla organizations. The Colombian government and the FARC reached a peace agreement [JURIST report] in November to end the guerrilla warfare that has been plaguing the country for more than five decades. In December Colombia's Constitutional Court approved [JURIST report] the government's plan to expedite a peace deal with the FARC. Also that month the Colombian Congress approved [JURIST report] a measure granting amnesty to low-level FARC guerrillas who have not committed atrocious crimes. Colombian voters in October narrowly rejected [JURIST report] the previous peace deal negotiated between Santos and Timoleon Jimenez, the leader of the FARC. The Colombian government and the FARC signed a ceasefire [JURIST report] in June 2016, marking an end to more than 50 years of armed conflict between the two groups.

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