ColombiaOne.comColombia newsNew Setback to Peace in Colombia: ELN Announces Armed Strike in Choco

New Setback to Peace in Colombia: ELN Announces Armed Strike in Choco

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New setback peace Colombia ELN strike Choco
ELN announces armed strike in an area of the Choco department – Photo: Cartago TV – CC BY-SA 3.0

Another setback for peace in Colombia: following the kidnapping of the father of footballer Luis Diaz by the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional – ELN), and the announcement of the suspension of peace talks by the Central Military Command (Estado Mayor Central – EMC) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), the ELN has declared a 72-hour armed strike in Alto Baudó, in the northern part of the Chocó department. With this move, the illegal organization, which has been in peace talks with the Colombian government for a year, continues to strain the negotiations.

During the strike the civilian population must remain confined in their homes, with no possibility of carrying out tasks outside their residences. The armed group has justified the measure due to recent clashes with the Gulf Clan, a paramilitary armed group with whom they are vying for control of the region.

In a statement, the ELN accuses the state of facilitating the mobility of their paramilitary rivals in the region, both before and after the regional elections on October 29. Without providing any evidence, the armed organization accuses the mobile army base in Chocó of enabling paramilitary advances across the Baudó River.

Accusations of violating the bilateral ceasefire

In this way, the ELN accuses the state of a “violation” of the bilateral ceasefire they maintain within the context of the negotiations. The armed group claims that the agreement has been undermined “by the National Government through the Armed Forces in collusion with paramilitary groups.”

There are doubts about the duration of this armed strike because, although the ELN states in its announcement that it will last for 72 hours, the municipal ombudsman of Alto Baudó claims that the guerrilla has communicated to the population that it will be indefinite.

In any case, this event represents another blow to President Petro’s “Paz Total” (Total Peace) project aimed at demobilizing various armed groups operating in Colombia. Although the same organization that is holding Luis Manuel Diaz, the father of the renowned footballer Luis Diaz, hostage has announced the immediate release of the kidnapped individual, doubts about the peace process with the ELN have lingered in much of the country’s public opinion throughout the weekend.

Kidnapping and attacks on the civilian population

Kidnapping is one of the most reviled criminal practices in Colombia. It was one of the first actions that the now-defunct FARC renounced after commencing peace talks with President Santos’ government in 2012. The collective Colombian imagination still holds memories of past kidnappings that lasted for years, with civilians and military personnel held in dire conditions in the country’s forests and mountains.

Although there has been no public statement about this ELN measure, the country’s president referred to the crisis generated by the EMC and its announcement of suspending peace talks.

“The Central Military Command (EMC) has decided not to attend the negotiation table, while not breaking the ceasefire. That is not possible. The ceasefire is only possible if the negotiation advances in the substitution of the illicit economy and the cessation of hostilities towards the civilian population,” the Colombian president wrote.

Petro blames the previous governments for failing to establish the state’s presence through the use of force in regions controlled by the now-extinct FARC until 2016. “With the peace agreements, they didn’t transition to the construction of a state of law but were abandoned by the state due to the past government’s lax attitude towards Santos’ peace process,” the Colombian president added.

Opposition accuses the government of weakness

On the other hand, Colombia’s political opposition has accused the government of being weak in the face of various illegal armed groups. Furthermore, opposition parliamentarians claim that ceasefires and negotiations with the ELN and the EMC are facilitating the strengthening of these criminal structures. Various deputies stated in the control debate held today in the House of Representatives that “the ELN has shown no willingness for peace.”

During today’s debate in the House, representatives of the Party of the U, the Conservative Party, and the Democratic Center strongly criticized the dialogue with these illegal armed groups, stating that “the population is scared and misinformed.” They also accused the High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, of “justifying the actions of illegal armed groups.”

Jose Jaime Usgátegui, a representative of the Democratic Center, even called for the official’s resignation. “The only possible rectification is for you to leave your position to see if there is a strategic reassessment in these negotiations, in the remaining two and a half years of the government. I come to beg you……to resign from your position and allow this country to have some relief because today there is a catastrophe that you have left us as an inheritance,” the representative of former President Álvaro Uribe’s party said.

Catherine Juvinao of Alianza Verde accused the commissioner of “legalizing negotiations with drug traffickers,” referring to the granting of political status to the EMC of the FARC.

New setback peace Colombia ELN strike Choco
Intervention of the opposition in the debate on political control of the High Commissioner – Credit: Capture Events precinct commission fourth

The government’s response

In response, Rueda defended his work, stating that he is authorized by the 2016 peace agreement for the implementation of the pact. Regarding the accusation of not having a legal framework to expand the negotiations to other illegal armed groups, the High Commissioner stated, “We are in the exploration phase, and we are not making agreements on a legal framework.”

Finally, Rueda defended the concept of “Paz Total” because “the armed groups with whom we are negotiating are not willing to lay down their arms if the rest of the criminal groups do not do the same.”

Danilo Rueda also criticized the defense of International Humanitarian Law, stating that “what some consider weakness, we see as the reconstruction of the rule of law” in the areas most affected by the armed conflict.

New setback peace Colombia ELN strike Choco
Danilo Rueda, High Commissioner for Peace – Credit: Capture Events precinct commission fourth

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