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Published On: Tue, Feb 27th, 2018

ELN announces unilateral ceasefire for Colombia’s congressional elections

nsnbc : Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), on Monday, announced a unilateral ceasefire in March to allow peaceful congressional elections.

ELN PR photo for the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire during the 2018 congressional elections.

ELN PR photo for the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire during the 2018 congressional elections.

The Central Command of the ELN, on the ELN’s its official website ELN VOCES, announced the unilateral ceasefire as “a sign of respect” for Colombians who want to practice their democratic rights in the upcoming elections.

The ELN stated: “As a sign of respect for Colombians who are voting, the National Liberation Army will halt offensive military operations between 9 and 13 March.”

The ELN’s unilaterally-declared ceasefire comes after a bilateral ceasefire set in place in October 2017 could not be prolonged earlier this year. The ELN also called on President Juan Manuel Santos to resume peace talks in the Ecuadorian capital Quito.

Earlier this year President Santos suspended talks with the guerrilla, blaming the ELN for “a new wave of attacks”. It is worth noting that any such attacks only came after the ceasefire was not extended following the ceasefire that was set in place in October 2017.

“We propose to President Santos to set a date for the start of the fifth cycle of talks and send his delegation to Quito,” the ELN said. “The goal must continue to be developed with rigor and speed … to seek an agreement that overcomes the armed confrontation and to agree on transformations in search of a peaceful and equitable Colombia,” it added.

President Santos welcomed the gesture and said he was considering a resumption of the talks. “This statement, if they back it up with action, is exactly the type of gesture we’re looking for to restart talks,” Santos said in an interview with radio station La FM. “I‘m going to study the statement, verify its authenticity and then we’ll take decisions,” added the head of state.

The bilateral ceasefire that lasted from October 2017 to January 2018 was seen as a positive development but a failure to agree an extension saw renewed violence involving both the ELN as well as right-wing paramilitaries.

The ELN has criticized the government’s inability to prevent the slaughter of social and community leaders and human rights activists that have been targeted by paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups  as they take part in an ongoing peace process with the now-demobilized Marxist FARC-EP and its transformation into a non-militant political party using the acronym FARC.

FARC suspends 2018 election campaign due to lack of security.

FARC suspends 2018 election campaign due to lack of security.

In fact, in February, lack of protection and safety has forced the FARC leadership to cancel its first legal election campaign since the signing of the December 2016 peace accord.

The Colombian government is in the last six months of its mandate and suffering near-catastrophic approval ratings and harsh criticism for having signed the peace accord with the FARC-EP that has earned Santos a Nobel peace laureate.

The ELN’s declaration of its unilateral ceasefire may, indeed, be what Santos and those interested in the continuation of the peace process have been hoping for.

Colombians will take to the polls twice this year when they vote for a new Congress in March and vote for a successor to President Juan Manuel Santos in May.

Colombia’s armed conflict and the preceding civil war between conservatives and liberals have killed more than 450,000 people over the past 70 years. More than 8 million Colombians were displaced in the past three decades.

CH/L – nsnbc 27.08.2018

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