By Hector Pereira
Caracas, Aug 17 (EFE).- The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia said government forces and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group have largely been adhering to the six-month cease-fire that took effect on Aug. 3.
The head of the UNVMC, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, said in an interview with Efe that few armed conflict-related incidents have occurred over the past two weeks and are on the decline.
He did not specify a precise number, however, saying the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MMV), which was launched on Aug. 4 and is composed of the Colombian government, the ELN, the UNVMC and the Colombian bishops’ conference, is responsible for that reporting.
The UN secretary general’s special envoy to this peace process also stressed the parties’ “constructive attitude” in the talks, whose fourth round began Monday in Caracas with calls from both sides for humanitarian relief for victims of the decades-old conflict.
The MMV serves as a communication channel between the two sides that helps prevent clashes and resolve problems when they present themselves, Ruiz Massieu said.
In that regard, he stressed the supreme importance of avoiding incidents that could undermine the agreements reached during the talks.
A key goal is to halt any plans for attacks that might be detected, and to that end representatives of the government and ELN are part of the mechanism, along with the Catholic Church and the UN, he added.
The MMV was installed with a national structure that will be replicated in regions and localities still to be determined, he said, adding that, although “it’s still early, (the entity) is functioning” as expected.
INCIDENTS IN DECLINE
Asked about the documented incidents, Ruiz recalled that between July 6 and Aug. 3 a communications channel was in operation that registered 23 incidents, “nearly half of which have already been resolved.”
During that four-week period, in which “offensive activities were suspended,” a decline in the number of incidents was observed and that trend is expected to continue under conditions of a full cease-fire.
“There have only been a few (cases) and even those have a validation process. So not even the cases presented or the complaints filed … are necessarily all valid,” said Ruiz, who added that the mission will include “some information” about these episodes in its quarterly reports to the UN Security Council.
COMPLAINTS AND CONTROVERSIES
The recently launched MMV was quickly put to the test by high-profile allegations in need of verification, including an alleged ELN plot to assassinate Attorney General Francisco Barbosa, opposition congresswoman Maria Fernanda Cabal and retired army commander Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro.
These accusations, which have been denied by the guerrillas, will be addressed under the mechanism, the mission chief said.
He added that in the meantime expectations are that the people affected “will be protected in the manner (necessary), regardless of where the threats are coming from.”
“For the United Nations, for the secretary general, for us, any threat against prosecutor Barbosa, against Sen. Cabal, against Gen. Zapateiro, is concerning. It must be addressed,” the UNVMC chief added.
EXPANDING THE MANDATE