CARACAS, VENEZUELA—Colombia will hold peace talks with the country’s second-largest rebel group, heightening expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation. The government has held exploratory talks in Ecuador with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, for more than a year. Negotiators for the two sides announced Wednesday at a press conference in Caracas that those talks will now be formalized. The government has been negotiating for three years in Havana with the largest Colombian rebel group, the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The smaller ELN, which the U.S. government classifies as a terrorist group, has an estimated fighting force of around 1,500 and relies on extortion and kidnapping to fund its insurgency. Its main base of operations is eastern Colombia, along the border with Venezuela, where it frequently bombs a major oil pipeline. The group recently freed two hostages, a precondition of formalizing talks.
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