Conflicts & War

Unilateral cease-fire won’t be extended beyond April, Colombian rebels say

Bogota, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group on Monday ruled out the possibility of extending beyond April 30 the one-month cease-fire it declared unilaterally as a humanitarian gesture during the coronavirus crisis.

“The National Liberation Army reports that the ongoing unilateral cease-fire being observed as a gesture to the country will end on April 30 at 24 hours (midnight),” the guerrilla group’s Central Command said in a communique.

In justifying that decision, it accused President Ivan Duque’s administration of being a “warmongering government deaf to the calls of Pope Francis and the (United Nations) secretary-general and blind to the humanitarian tragedy the Colombian people are suffering.”

The rebels added that “impartial institutions that have monitored the cease-fire recognize that the ELN did what it pledged to do” when it made its announcement on March 30.

In that regard, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special representative for Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, said Monday that the rebels have largely heeded the cease-fire.

He expressed concern, however, about the continuation in some regions of clashes and killings of social leaders and ex-guerrillas, as well as other situations provoked by different armed actors that affect communities, and therefore urged the ELN to “prolong its cease-fire.”

Several organizations that monitor the Colombian military’s operations against the ELN say none have been carried out in April and that the temporary truce has led to a reduction in the levels of violence in the Andean nation.

Referring to a nearly two-year suspension in talks between the ELN and government negotiators, the rebels said Monday it is regrettable that Duque’s administration “has not responded reciprocally” and instead has ignored the group’s proposals for making progress toward peace.

“We don’t see a willingness on the part of Duque’s government to resume the peace talks in Havana. So it’s time for our delegation to return to our camps with all the security guarantees and conditions agreed with the Colombian state,” the guerrillas said.

Negotiations that had begun between the previous Colombian government and the ELN were put on hold after the inauguration of Duque, who in taking office on Aug. 7, 2018, said talks could only continue if the ELN released all of its hostages and renounced all criminal activities.

The process was then suspended indefinitely when the ELN carried out a Jan. 17, 2019, car-bomb blast on a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 cadets, including an Ecuadorian woman, and wounded 66 others.

After that attack, Colombia’s government unsuccessfully asked Cuba’s government to arrest and extradite the ELN’s delegates to the peace talks.

Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize after signing an accord that put an end to more than 50 years of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose fighters demobilized and handed over their weapons to the UN. EFE-EPA

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