The ELN initiates a Christmas truce in Colombia with the unknown of the future of peace dialogues

The ELN initiates a Christmas truce in Colombia with the unknown of the future of peace dialogues



The guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN) today began a unilateral ceasefire that has been met with skepticism by the Colombian government, which demands that it stop all criminal activities, especially kidnapping, in order to resume peace talks.

The ELN, which today has not made any official reference to the beginning of the ceasefire, made the announcement of its Christmas truce on December 17 and will extend it until January 3, 2019 "to contribute to a climate of tranquility in the Christmas and the New Year ".

In addition, with this truce the ELN seeks to have a gesture with which they aspire to resume the peace negotiations in Cuba, suspended since President Ivan Duque took office on August 7.

ELN sources told Efe about the ceasefire, which began at 00.00 this Sunday, that "it should be clear that it is a cessation of offensive operations", which does not respond to the Government's call to end all activities criminals

The day of the beginning of ceasefire has gone unnoticed and has largely been in the shadow of the death last Friday of Walter Patricio Arizala, alias "Guacho", leader of a group of dissidents of the FARC, killed in an operation military.

"Guacho" was the leader of the group calling itself "Front Sinisterra Oliver", one of those seeking to take control of the extensive and forested municipality of Tumaco, bordering Ecuador.

Precisely, the ELN is another of the groups that seek to control this locality, which also houses Colombia's second largest port in the Pacific Ocean.

That is why President Duque was asked yesterday to take stock of the operation if military operations in the area were to continue, especially against the ELN at the start of a unilateral ceasefire.

Duque responded that "Colombia must act with the necessary force against all forms of organized crime."

"Colombia needs this example of unity of forces to remain in the territory to fulfill what our Constitution says: the defense of life, honor and property of all Colombians," he said.

Duque's statement is in line with what he did hours after the ELN announced that he would start the truce, when he insisted that the guerrillas must release the kidnapped and stop their criminal activities to resume peace negotiations in Cuba.

Already last year, when the negotiations were held in Quito, the government of then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN agreed on a bilateral 101-day ceasefire that was in effect between October 1, 2017 and January 9, 2018 .

On that occasion the truce was bilateral, with the monitoring of the UN and the Catholic Church, whose clergy left several historical leaders of the ELN, and aimed to create more propitious conditions to move towards a peace agreement.

However, after that ceasefire, the ELN resumed its attacks in a particularly bloody manner with two attacks in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla against two police stations and a third against the agents of the town of Buenavista, in the municipality of Santa Rosa, in the department of Bolívar (north).

In total, seven police officers were killed and at least a dozen people were injured.

The sixth cycle of negotiations between the Government and the ELN concluded on August 1 in the Cuban capital. Since that date, the two delegations have not returned to the dialogue table.

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