“A peace process with the ELN is the best opportunity to address priority issues,” the rebel group said.
Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas announced Monday that they would enforce a ceasefire during the upcoming presidential elections, in what has been perceived as a step towards peace talks with the future administration.
“Before knowing who the winning candidate may be, we dare to create a new political moment generating a better environment for the next election day on May 29, for that purpose we decree a unilateral ceasefire,” the rebels posted on their website.
Despite the apparent good intentions on the part of the fighting group, Defense Minister Diego Molano was quick to reply that “security” was provided by the armed forces.
The ELN said the truce would begin on May 25 and end on June 3, so that “those who wish to vote do so in peace.”
But the ceasefire “only covers the government’s military and police forces, we reserve the right to defend ourselves in case we are attacked,” the guerrillas warned.
Molano insisted, “here security is provided by the public force, here the security against these messages is provided by our public force, which is the one that has guaranteed and will guarantee security in the elections.”
He also highlighted that the peacefulness registered in the legislative and primary elections last March was the result of the work carried out by the military and the police.
He said, “Let them not believe that, because they pretend to generate fear or violence and narco-terrorism, they will be able to do it with Colombians; we will continue to provide tranquility and security throughout the national territory.”
Violence has erupted earlier this month in some northern departments at the hands of the Gulf Clan, a paramilitary group angered by the extradition of their leader alias “Otoniel” (Dairo Antonio Usuga) to the United States.
The armed uprising left eight people dead and dozens of vehicles burned, according to local media reports.
In Molano’s view, the ELN truce is aimed at positioning the group “for future peace talks,” which were suspended under President Iván Duque on the grounds that they were only possible if the organization gave up its arms.
The situation between the ELN and the Colombian government worsened after the car bomb that exploded Jan. 17, 2019, inside the police academy where 21 people died.
In Monday’s message, the ELN hinted that a new negotiated solution might be brokered once Duque’s successor has been chosen and taken office. “A peace process with the ELN is the best opportunity to address priority issues for the country such as: corruption, assassinations of social leaders and drug trafficking, the exercise of governing cannot be understood as the opportunity to steal, but to serve.”
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES