Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered the military to locate the remains of iconic ELN guerrilla Camilo Torres, who was killed in combat in 1966.
According to Santos, the order is a gesture of peace to the ELN that has been engaged in exploratory peace talks with the government since before June 2014.
The president made the announcement in Santander, the province where Torres was killed in his first confrontation with the military.
“Let’s find where the remains of Camilo Torres are so that we can continue the process to end this was with a symbolic gesture,” Santos said in the town of San Vicente de Chucuri.
The ELN had asked the government to find Torres’ remains last week, almost 50 years after their most famous founder was killed.
After his death, the military hid the ELN leader’s remains, according to the late general responsible for Torres’ death. Since then, several stories have emerged regarding the whereabouts of Torres’ remains.
Torres, a Catholic priest, was one of the pioneers in the formulation of Liberation Theology, a radical interpretation of the bible that urges society’s solidarity with the poor and downtrodden.
The radical Christian philosophy became one of the founding principles of the ELN and Torres has been the rebels’ primary icon ever since his death.
Torres was killed only months after abandoning his life as a priest to join the ELN that was formed in 1964 to combat the then-government that was shared by the Liberal Party and Conservative Party, the dominant political powers at the time.
The group has been able to maintain itself through the taxation of drug trafficking, strong support by radical students at public universities and the extortion of the families of kidnapping victims.
Santos announced peace talks with the ELN in June 2014, five days before his successful reelection, but has since failed to come to an agreement with the rebels about the formalization of the talks.
The government has been holding peace talks with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, since 2012.
If talks with both the FARC and ELN are successful, an internal armed conflict that has ravished Colombia since 1964 will formally come to an end.
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