The Americas

Opening of talks with Colombia's No. 2 rebel group delayed

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a press conference after a meeting with his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela at the Nicanor Air Naval base in Darien province, Panama, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Santos and Varela discussed security and immigration issues between both countries. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a press conference after a meeting with his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela at the Nicanor Air Naval base in Darien province, Panama, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Santos and Varela discussed security and immigration issues between both countries. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)  (The Associated Press)

Colombia's president has ordered his negotiating team to delay its departure for Ecuador's capital to open peace talks with the country's No. 2 rebel group.

President Juan Manuel Santos says the National Liberation Army, or ELN, must first free a former congressman it has held captive for six months.

The delay may be a matter of logistics. Chief government negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo says the Red Cross has informed authorities that operations have begun to receive the ex-congressmen, Odin Sanchez.

The talks' opening had been planned for Thursday in Quito.

They come amid deep uncertainty over the narrow electoral defeat in an Oct. 2 referendum of a peace pact with Colombia's main rebel group, the FARC. Negotiators from both sides are in Cuba trying to salvage that pact.