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Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2018

Colombia to seek arrest of ELN leaders: Prosecutor General

nsnbc : Colombia’s Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez decided to prosecute the leadership of the National Liberation Army (ELN) over bomb attacks in January, attributed to the ELN.

ELN guerrilla (archives)

ELN guerrilla (archives)

The arrest warrants for ELN leaders Pablo Beltran and Antonio Garcia were suspended a year ago to allow formal peace talks between the administration of President Juan manuel Santos and the ELN. However, peace talks have broken down during the ongoing election campaigns in Colombia, increased posturing and positioning and disputes about the terms for a renewal of the bilateral ceasefire that lasted from October 2017 to January 2018.

In January President Santos had the peace talks suspended after a number of attacks attributed to the ELN. The ELN leadership hasn’t claimed responsibility for any specific attacks and stressed that the attacks happened within a very complex theater. The prosecution now claims that Beltran and ELN field commanders were involved in the bomb attacks on police stations, road infrastructure and oil pipelines.

A total of 27 ELN guerrillas were charged with involvement in the recent resurgence of violence in response to the warring parties’ failure to extend a ceasefire. Colombian National Army commander Alberto Jose Mejia said earlier this week that “if any top level ELN commander sets foot on Colombian soil, rest assured that the security forces will attack them.”

The ELN and the Colombian military have been fighting each other since the group’s formation in 1964. Wanted members of the ELN’s Central Command are Gabino, Pablo Beltran, Antonio Garcia, Ramiro Vargas, Pablito. Considering the hiatus, the fact that a large segment of the Colombian population is against peace with the FARC and its political participation, a concerted propaganda campaign against the ELN by the far-right Democratic center party, including #FAKENEWS, and an approval rating of about 15 % in favor of peace talks with the ELN, it is unlikely that peace talks – and a ceasefire – can be restarted before a new administration has been elected.

President Juan Manuel Santos did not immediately respond to the chief prosecutor’s decision to seek the arrest of the guerrilla leaders currently in Quito. Ironically, the arrest warrants came almost immediately after some 50 social leaders traveled to Quito to mediate the resumption of talks with the ELN. The group met with Santos last week and were encouraged to go to Quito. The Catholic Church and two senior politicians have also been mediating a de-escalation of conflict.

CH/L – nsnbc 13.02.2018

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