Colombia’s ELN rebels protest halt in peace talks

A member of the “Omar Gomez” Western Front of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, pictured in November 2017 at a camp in the Choco department, in northwestern Colombia -AFP photo

BOGOTA: Colombia’s ELN rebels on Wednesday launched a three-day armed protest against the suspension of peace talks with the government, halting road traffic and daily activities in areas they control.

Tensions between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army have been on the rise since late January, when peace talks halted after the hold-out guerrilla group killed seven police officers in a series of attacks.

The government retaliated on February 1 by bombing an ELN camp in northwestern Colombia, killing three guerrillas.

The ELN, which has some 1,800 fighters, announced via their social media outlets that the “armed strike” would run from Saturday to Tuesday, to protest “the government’s refusal” to continue peace talks in Quito, in neighboring Ecuador.

The stalled talks and upsurge in violence threaten to re-ignite an armed conflict that had been on the path to peaceful resolution following a historic November 2016 peace deal with the FARC, Colombia’s much larger insurgent group.

The FARC has since disarmed and transformed itself into a political party, keeping the same acronym.

The ELN is especially strong in eastern Colombia, along the border with Venezuela, and in an impoverished jungle area in northwestern Colombia, experts say. -AFP

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