Colombia: historic ceasefire with ELN guerillas

The Colombian government signed a ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN) after a third round of peace talks in Ecuador's capital Quito Sept. 4. The first-ever bilateral ceasefire in the 53-year history of the guerilla organization came two days before Pope Francis is to arrive in Colombia. The ceasefire is to formally take effect Oct. 1, to be renewed in January if peace talks continue to progress. As part of the deal, Colombia's government pledged to suspend military operations against the group, improve conditions for imprisoned ELN members, and protect human rights defenders. (El Espectador, Las 2 Orillas, Jurist)

A group of 19 social organizations in Colombia issued a statement calling on the ELN to immediately cease attacks on the civil population, as well as on infrastructure such as oil pipelines. Days before the ceasefire was signed, an ELN attack on the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline at El Carmen, Norte de Santander, spilled crude into a nearby Río Simaña, a tributary of the Magdalena. Signatories included Viva la Ciudadanía, Casa de la Mujer and Fundación Manos a la Paz. (El Pais, Cali, Aug. 29; Reuters, Aug. 28)