Colombia issues arrest warrants against ELN, including negotiator “Pablo Beltrán”

Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office has issued 21 arrest warrants against the members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), including the guerrilla’s chief peace negotiator Israel Ramírez, known by his wartime alias “Pablo Beltrán.”

According to a four-page document released by the Fiscalia General de la Nación, the senior commanders of the 4,000-strong ELN face charges of forced disappearance, recruitment of children, rebellion, attacks against civilians and forced displacement.

The warrants come after a rash of attacks during a three-day “Armed Offensive”  – Paro Armado – ordered by ELN in response to President Juan Manuel Santos suspending the fifth cycle of talks that were to take place in Quito, Ecuador.

Talks between the guerrilla and Colombian government formally began in February 2017 after a 10-month exploratory period with Colombia’s last remaining Marxist insurgency.

Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Norway, and Venezuela are guarantor nations of the talks.

When ELN claimed responsibility for bombing three police stations along Colombia’s Caribbean coast during the weekend of January 26 that killed seven police officers and wounded 41 civilians, Santos suspended the talks indefinitely.

Despite calls by international organizations and the Roman Catholic Church for  ELN to show real gestures of peace, they proceeded with a Paro Armado that affected several regions of the country with attacks against road and energy infrastructure.

On Saturday, rebels launched offensives against bridges in the department of César, destroying the Puente Amarillo in Pelaya, burning tollbooths in Aguachica, and detonating explosives on a road near Curumaní.

Grenades were launched against the Colombian Army in Puerto Valdivia (Antioquia), and an ELN sniper injured a soldier during an ambush in the mountainous Catatumbo region, Norte de Santander department. Several cargo trucks were destroyed by the guerrilla near the Pacific port city of Buenaventura, and an inter-municipal bus transporting passengers from Miranda to Corinto, Cauca, was set on fire.

On Monday, police authorities in the department of Norte de Santander confirmed that two militants who died while attempting to blow up the El Palermo bridge that connects Pamplona with Cucutá with 30 kilos of pentonite were Venezuelan citizens and relatives. Security forces managed to deactivate a second explosive device under the bridge which resulted in the closure of the highway and a 150-car pileup, confirmed General Jorge Hernando Nieto director of Colombia’s National Police.

The ELN’s three-day offensive ends Tuesday at 6:00 am.