Colombia: ELN ends COVID-19 ceasefire

Despite calls for an extension, Colombia’s ELN guerillas announced an end to their unilateral ceasefire on April 30, saying that continued government offensives demonstrate that President Ivan Duque is not interested in peace or in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was met with disappointment by civil society groups and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who in March had called for a “global ceasefire” in response to the pandemic. The UN chief’s spokesperson said the month-long ceasefire “was having a positive effect” and that its extension “would have brought hope and a message of peace to communities affected by the conflict.”

But the ELN said in its statement that “the Duque government had not responded in a reciprocal manner or listened to the proposals we made to advance the search for peace. On the contrary, we saw a government interested in taking advantage of the unilateral cessation, maintaining joint operations with the paramilitaries, to gain greater territorial control and continue with its plan to assassinate social leaders.” (Colombia Reports)

Just days earlier, some 70 families were displaced in the rural zone of Urrao, Antioquia department, when the village of Santa María was occupied by at least 200 armed men from the Gaitanista Self-defense Forces of Colombia, (AGC). (La FM)

In an interview with Caracol Radio on May 1, the ELN’s former peace negotiator Pablo Beltrán, a member of the guerilla group’s Central Command, said that despite the end of the ceasefire, the group “will not have attack plans, but defense plans.” Beltrán called on the United Nations and Pope Francis to lobby the Colombian government for a bilateral ceasefire. “We are willing to agree on a bilateral cessation with the government, however difficult it may be; we will not abandon the path of a political solution,” he said. (Colombia Reports)

Photo: Colombia Reports