November 21, 2018 / 12:05 AM / 19 days ago

Colombia asks Cuba to arrest ELN rebel leader under Interpol notice

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s government has asked Cuba to capture ELN rebel commander Nicolas Rodriguez, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, a sign peace talks with the insurgent group are unlikely to resume soon.

FILE PHOTO: Colombian guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) commander Nicolas Rodriguez, known as "Gabino", gestures as he speaks in response to questions from Reuters at a hidden jungle camp in this still image taken from an undated video released August 27, 2012. REUTERS/ELN via Reuters TV

Colombia made a verbal request on Nov. 6 for Cuba’s government to provide information about the presence of several commanders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Cuban territory, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It also asked Havana to act on an Interpol Red Notice on Rodriguez, the rebel group’s leader. An Interpol Red Notice is a “request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition.”

Rodriguez, also known by his nom de guerre Gabino, has been in Cuba for several months receiving medical treatment.

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move by Colombia may hobble efforts to reactivate peace talks between the government and the ELN. Colombian President Ivan Duque in August said he was halting the Cuba-based negotiations until the rebels freed all its hostages.

The guerrillas hold about 10 hostages.

In September, Duque relieved the government negotiating team - in a scheduled administrative move - and said he would not send a new team back to Cuba until the captives were freed and the ELN ceased criminal activity.

The rebels have said the liberation of hostages was not a pre-condition for talks agreed at the start of negotiations in February 2017.

The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964. The larger FARC, formerly a guerrilla group and now a political party, agreed a peace deal with the government in 2016.

Interpol cannot compel a country to arrest an individual.

Reporting by Helen Murphy, additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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