The Bogotá think tank, which maintains a database of conflict events, finds that the ELN did not violate its declared ceasefire during the first 15 days of April.
We’ve added a fourth article to this site’s page of “Explainer” documents: an overview of the National Liberation Army, ELN, Colombia’s largest existing guerrilla group. The Explainer moves rapidly through the ELN’s difficult history, its command structure and way of operating, its geography, its revenue streams, its poor human rights record, and Colombia’s experience engaging it in peace talks. All in a concise 5,400 words—but with numerous photos and maps.
Maximum ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez alias “Gabino” sends a message calling on the armed forces to join in a bilateral ceasefire. The group had declared a unilateral ceasefire for the month of April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutor-General Carlos Barbosa says that the COVID-19-related prison protests of March 21, which led to guards killing 23 prisoners that night, were instigated by the ELN and by FARC dissident leader Henry Castellanos alias “Romaña,” who is part of the “Nueva Marquetalia” group led by former chief negotiator Iván Márquez. “Romaña” was known during the conflict as a hardliner who pioneered the practice of ransom kidnappings along roads on Bogotá’s outskirts.
A look at how the COVID-19 emergency is affecting the security situation and armed groups’ control measures in rural areas of Nariño, Cauca, Antioquia, and Córdoba.
A snapshot of the ELN guerrillas’ current capacities, internal divisions, and prospects for peace, as well as a mapping of its presence in Colombia (but not Venezuela).
The Bogotá think tank, which maintains a database of conflict events, finds that the ELN did not violate its declared ceasefire during the first eight days of April.
An interview with the Colombian government’s high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, after the ELN’s declaration of a ceasefire due to the COVID-19 emergency.
After the ELN declares a month-long ceasefire in response to the coronavirus emergency, a look at prospects for further steps toward peace.
Former ELN leader Francisco Galán, named by the government as a “peace promoter” empowered to facilitate contacts with the guerrilla group, is freed from prison. A second former leader named a peace promoter, Felipe Torres, has an arrest order lifted. Both were wanted by a judge for their purported role in a 2000 ELN kidnapping (which occurred while both were already in prison).
The ELN rejects Galán’s and Torres’s mediation, saying the they are no longer members of the group and are instead “functionaries named by the government.” On April 8, Galán and Torres send a message to their former comrades calling on them to release kidnap victims. The ELN’s preferred interlocutor, active leader Juan Carlos Cuéllar, remains in prison.
On March 29, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) guerrilla group announced a month-long, unilateral ceasefire that will begin on April 1 and end on April 30. The Colombian government subsequently announced that two former ELN commanders, Francisco Galán and Carlos Velandia, would serve as “peace promoters” (gestores de paz)—a small but critical first step in restarting peace negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government that have been stalled since January 2019.While these humanitarian actions will help bring a temporary peace to some conflict-ridden communities in Colombia, securing a lasting peace requires using this ceasefire as a starting point for reinitiating dialogue between ELN and the government.
The Duque administration has tried to control the spread of COVID-19 through a nationwide quarantine. Yet, despite enhanced public health and security measures all over the country, killings, displacements, and violent actions by illegal armed groups targeting ethnic, indigenous, and rural communities have continued at an alarming rate. Since the quarantine, hostilities between armed groups have exacerbated humanitarian emergencies and led to the confinement of civilians in Nariño, Chocó, and Cauca. In Putumayo, forced coca eradication has prompted conflicts with rural farmers, while it has led to an extrajudicial killing in Catatumbo. Four ex-combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) were recently murdered: two in San Vicente del Caguán, one in La Macarena, and one in Bogotá.
All over the country, social leaders have seen their protection diminished even further since the quarantine, and several have been assassinated. They include feminist leader Carlota Salinas of Bolívar, Ángel Ovidio Quintero of Antioquia, leaders of the Emberá indigenous group Omar Guasiruma and Ernesto Guasiruma of Valle del Cauca, and several other leaders and community members in Awá territory and Afro-Colombian communities in Jiguamiando, Chocó. Jhon Restrepo, director of Casa Diversa and a well-known LGBT activist suffered an assassination attempt.
In response to the violence during the pandemic, more than 100 Colombian ethnic, indigenous, and rural communities wrote letters to all the armed groups in Colombia urging them to stop bellicose operations during the pandemic in order to minimize violence and public health risks.
Though the ELN’s chain of command is loose, the group has generally observed past ceasefires. In zones under the group’s influence, populations interviewed by WOLA recall the group’s 100-day 2017 ceasefire with some nostalgia, as an unprecedented period of tranquility. WOLA encourages the ELN to continue its ceasefire after April 30 if, as is likely, the public health emergency is continuing.
All armed actors in Colombia should implement ceasefires at least for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, refraining from offensive tactics or other actions that might leave populations vulnerable to infection. All should use the temporary pause to explore paths for sustained peace. In the case of the temporary ELN unilateral ceasefire, the Colombian government should take steps towards a bilateral ceasefire and reestablishment of talks with the guerrillas. It should increase protection for social leaders in addition to taking measures to protect vulnerable communities from the COVID-19 virus. All belligerent groups should respect the Humanitarian Accord Now in Chocó (Acuerdo Humanitario ¡Ya! en el Chocó)—a 2017 humanitarian accord proposed by dozens of Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups in Chocó—and international humanitarian law.
The ELN has declared a one-month ceasefire in response to the coronavirus crisis. This brief video looks at prospects for further eventual steps toward peace with the guerrilla group.
- The ELN announces a unilateral ceasefire during the month of April in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The guerrillas’ statement asks the government to send negotiators to Havana to discuss making the ceasefire bilateral.
- The Defendamos la Paz movement issues a statement on March 30 hailing the ELN’s decision.
- The government’s high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, turns down the ELN’s demand that local military units pull back to their barracks during the ceasefire. He calls the ELN’s announcement “a good gesture, but late and insufficient,” calling on the group to make the unilateral ceasefire permanent.
- The government names former ELN leaders Francisco Galán and Felipe Torres “peace promoters”—advisors and possible interlocutors with the guerrilla group. This releases Galán from preventive prison for his alleged role in a 2000 kidnapping, and suspends an arrest order against Torres.
A conversation with High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos about the ELN’s declared ceasefire in response to the coronavirus emergency, the government’s naming of two former ELN members as “peace promoters,” and allegations of Venezuelan support to Colombian armed groups.