Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) denied government charges it has become a drug trafficking organization, saying the accusations jeopardize preliminary peace talks set to resume this month. Peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo told Reuters the previous day that cocaine smuggling has supplanted kidnapping as the group’s main source of income.
“The commissioner has committed an offense against the peace process, putting the process at risk,” ELN second-in-command Antonio Garcia told local radio. “We do not cultivate illicit crops, operate cocaine production laboratories or traffic in drugs. This is ELN policy. What the commissioner said is not true.” Colombia is to open a new six-week round of talks with the 5,000-member guerrilla army in Cuba on April 12. (Reuters, April 4)
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