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TerrorismColombia agrees to cease-fire with leftist ELN guerrilla group

Published 6 September 2017

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced on Monday that his government will sign a cease-fire deal with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) after months of peace talks with the rebel group.

The cease-fire will take effect on 1 October and would last until 12 January, in order to allow the government of Colombia and the small insurgent group time to negotiate a permanent deal. The ELN and its larger sister guerilla group, the FARC, launched their violent war against the Colombian state in 1964. Both groups share responsibility for about 260,000 civilian deaths, 23,000 kidnapped and disappeared civilians, and the forced internal displacement of 6.7 million Colombians.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced on Monday that his government will sign a cease-fire deal with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) after months of peace talks with the rebel group.

The cease-fire will take effect on 1 October and would last until 12 January, in order to allow the government of Colombia and the small insurgent group time to negotiate a permanent deal.

Santos noted that the cease-fire would continue to be renewed if progress in the peace negotiations is made.

Yes, it was possible,” the ELN said in a tweet announcing the deal in Ecuador’s capital Quito, which has hosted the latest round of talks since February.

El Tiempo notes that the deal was announced two days before Pope Francis arrive in Colombia on Wednesday. One f the goals of the Pope’s four-day visit to Colombia is to support the peace processes taking place between the Colombian government and the two main rebel factions, the FARC and the ELN.

The pope will thus arrive at a unique moment in our history, when we turn the page on this absurd conflict and look with hope toward the future,” Santos said.

The FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla force, last month completed its UN-supervised disarmament, thus ending fifty-three years of violent rebellion against the Colombian state.

Both the FARC and the ELN were founded in 1964. The FARC was a more traditional Marxist guerrilla, with close ties to the Castro regime in Cuba and a willingness to cooperate with Colombia’s powerful drug cartels. The ELN was more eclectic, combining Marxism and Catholic liberation theology in its ideology, and maintaining distance from both Cuba and the drug cartels.

The ELN, shunning the drug trade, financed its activities mostly through extortion and kidnappings.

The FARC had about 30,000 active fighters at the height of its power in the mid-1990s, but has now dwindled to about 8,000. The ELN has about 1,500 ideologically committed members.

Both the FARC and the ELN, though, were extremely violent, sharing responsibility for about 260,000 civilian deaths, 23,000 kidnapped and disappeared civilians, and the forced internal displacement of 6.7 million Colombians.

Both organizations are on the U.S. and EU terrorist watch list.

Santos has said he is now trying to reach a deal with the left-wing ELN to secure a “complete peace.” The negotiations with the FARC, conducted in Havana under UN auspices, lasted four years before a deal was reached last fall. The talks with the more ideological ELN, held in Quito, Ecuador, for three years now, have moved at a slower pace.

The priority is to protect citizens, so abductions, attacks on oil pipelines and other hostilities against civilians will cease during this period,” Santos said.

Decades of conflict involving the two rebel movements, the Colombian army and right-wing paramilitary groups have left more than 260,000 dead, displaced 6 million people and led to the disappearance of tens of thousands.