The Americas

Colombia to hold peace talks with 2nd-largest rebel group

  • FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2006, file photo, Antonio Garcia, leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN),looks at his rebel group's flag during a press conference at the Palco hotel in Havana. Colombian and ELN officials have made an announcement Wednesday, March 30, 2016, that they have started formal peace talks. The ELN is the country's second-largest rebel group. (AP photo/ Javier Galeano, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2006, file photo, Antonio Garcia, leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN),looks at his rebel group's flag during a press conference at the Palco hotel in Havana. Colombian and ELN officials have made an announcement Wednesday, March 30, 2016, that they have started formal peace talks. The ELN is the country's second-largest rebel group. (AP photo/ Javier Galeano, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Antonio Garcia, chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, from left, along with rebels Pablo Beltran, and Marian Elena Velazco, confer during a signing agreement to start peace talks, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The formal peace talks with the ELN, the country's second-largest rebel group, heightens expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

    Antonio Garcia, chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, from left, along with rebels Pablo Beltran, and Marian Elena Velazco, confer during a signing agreement to start peace talks, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The formal peace talks with the ELN, the country's second-largest rebel group, heightens expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (The Associated Press)

  • Frank Pearl, head of Colombia's peace negotiation team, left, shake hands with Antonio Garcia, chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, during a signing agreement to start peace talks, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The formal peace talks with the ELN, the country's second-largest rebel group, heightens expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

    Frank Pearl, head of Colombia's peace negotiation team, left, shake hands with Antonio Garcia, chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, during a signing agreement to start peace talks, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The formal peace talks with the ELN, the country's second-largest rebel group, heightens expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (The Associated Press)

Colombia says it will hold formal peace talks with the country's second-largest rebel group.

The government has held exploratory talks in Ecuador with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, for more than a year. 

The start of formal peace talks with the rebel group raises expectations for a definitive end to a half-century of political violence in the Andean nation.

Colombian and ELN officials made the announcement Wednesday morning at a press conference in Caracas. 

The government began formal talks in Havana three years ago with the largest Colombian rebel group, the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. 

The smaller ELN has an estimated fighting force of around 1,500 and relies on extortion and kidnapping to fund its insurgency. 

Colombia's long-running civil war has killed an estimated 200,000 people.