Just hours after a truce agreed upon between the Colombian Government and ELN (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional) guerrilla expired Wednesday morning, a front of the Marxist insurgency detonated three explosives on the Caño Limon Coveñas pipeline. The 600 kilometer-long Caño Limon Coveñas pipeline is the longest in the country and transports crude from the oil rich Eastern plains to the Caribbean port of Coveñas.
The attacks in the departments of Arauca and Casanare, prompted President Santos to recall the government’s chief peace negotiator with ELN, Gustavo Bell, to Bogotá on the same day talks were to resume in Quito with the 4000-strong guerrilla group. “I deplore the decision by ELN to reactivate its terrorist attacks against Colombia’s infrastructure and civilians,” said Santos Wednesday morning in a radio address. “My government is always willing to work towards peace […] but clearly the ELN refuses to extend the ceasefire.”
The ELN’s first-ever cease-fire went into effect September 4, 2017, as part of the peace talks in the Ecuadorean capital. The ELN confirmed that their organization had perpetrated the attacks, but stated they had “occurred in the middle of a complex situation of conflict in the country.” The Marxist rebel group, founded by rouge Roman Catholic priests in 1964, did, however, reiterate its willingness to continue talks with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, and raised the possibility of extending the cease-fire. Referring to the crisis, the ELN’s spokesperson, alias “Pablo Beltran” said “the course of the conversations shouldn’t be altered in order to achieve a political resolution to this conflict.”
On Thursday, the future of the talks with the country’s last remaining guerrilla group remained “suspended” according to President Santos. Several of the country’s leading business entities have backed the executive’s decision claiming the guerrilla is not creating “conditions that help advance towards peace.” President Santos said peace in Colombia cannot be reached “just with words.”
Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize after forging a peace with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The peace talks with FARC lasted four years in Havana, Cuba, and a final accord was signed between the guerrilla organization and the Colombian Government on November 24, 2016, in the Colombian capital. The former senior commander of FARC, alias “Timochenko” condemned the attacks and urged both sides to resume talks.
On Wednesday, Santos ordered the state’s security forces to “respond decisively” to any aggression by the guerrilla that “threatens the integrity of Colombians.” Since the cease-fire broke Wednesday, the ELN has committed six attacks, including a sniper attack that claimed the life of a soldier in Arauquita, Arauca. The death of soldier Luis Guillermo Ascencio is attributed to the “Domingo Laín Sáenz” front.
The rash of attacks by ELN raised the ire of ex-president Alvaro Uribe Vélez who tweeted Wednesday: “What the ELN has shown is that peace can’t be reached by acquiescing terrorists. Peace requires authority.”