An internal communique released by the Central Command (COSE) of the National Liberation Army (ELN) for the guerrilla’s war front commanders and message to be “burned immediately” after reading, was leaked to Colombia’s largest daily newspaper El Tiempo, revealing deep internal divisions over the future of the Marxist organization.
The encrypted statement sent from Havana, Cuba, last November where the ELN’s commanders have been offered safe haven since the peace talks broke down in 2018 with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, affirms that the “security of our organization” is at stake should the contents “circulate on networks.”
The classified nature of the two-page document reveals that ELN’s senior negotiators consider that the “peace processes [Havana and Quito] have been a factor of discord and not a mechanism for consensus and coexistence.” The missive confirms that the leaders are rethinking their political future “through dialogues or peace processes,” and adds that drug trafficking goes against the revolutionary ideals of the organization. “At this time, any possibility of a dialogue with the Duque government is conditioned on the return of the delegation in Cuba to the country, and on the agenda already agreed with the previous government.” The senior commanders of the guerrilla also state that they are “stranded” in the island nation and seek a return to Colombia even under the “guise of peace talks.” They also warn that two ELNs have consolidated in the mind-set of the militancy: one in Venezuela, the other in Colombia. “The notion that those who fight from the sister territory have gentrified and distanced themselves from the problems of the ELN in Colombia […] is a lie spread by the enemy to distance ourselves from the people.”
The leaked ELN communique comes days after the representatives of former FARC changed the name of their political party to Comunes to distance themselves from FARC dissidents and five decades of association between their infamous acronym and the internal conflict. President Iván Duque, during the swearing-in ceremony of Diego Molano as the country’s Minister of Defense, signaled the ELN’s commanders as narco-terrorists who could face extradition this year to the U.S. President Duque classified ELN as part of the Narcotalia criminal structure, with Clan del Golfo, Los Caparros, and Los Pelusos. “We will break these criminals, from their illicit crops to money laundering, from chemical precursors to micro-trafficking in our cities,” said Duque.
Despite orders from COSE for no guerrilla member to make official statements regarding the document, on Sunday, the Eastern Bloc under command of alias Antonio García released a video in which they refer to former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez as a “war criminal” and accuse President Duque of continuing “Joe Biden’s war.” Cuba was placed back on the U.S government’s state sponsors of terrorism list by former President Donald Trump just weeks before he left office, in part justified by Cuba’s refusal to hand-over to Colombia the 10 commanders of ELN.