By Rajan Gupta, International News Writer
On September 4th, the Colombian government reached a temporary ceasefire with The National Liberation Army, also known as the ELN. This is the first time the two sides have agreed to a ceasefire since the conflict began more than 50 years ago.
The ELN, or National Liberation Army, is a leftist rebel guerilla group that has existed in Colombia since 1964. Initially conceived as a Marxist-Leninist national movement, InsightCrime reports that recently, they have “focused on kidnapping, extortion, and attacks on economic infrastructure”, making kidnapping and extortion their primary source of income. While the ELN is not as large a threat as the recently dissolved Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) was, they still maintain over 1500 fighters.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the truce will begin on October 1st, 2017, and will last 102 days, ending on January 12th, 2018. After eight long months of peace negotiations, the first step towards President Santos’ dream of “complete peace” has been taken. President Santos said that “the priority is to protect citizens, so during this period, kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines, and other hostilities against the civilian population will cease”. In return for halting these activities, The Washington Post reports, “jailed ELN fighters would receive improved conditions and the government would increase security for leftist community leaders”.
During the 102-day ceasefire, additional negotiations will be held between the Colombian government and the ELN. President Santos has explained that the ceasefire may be extended after the 102-day period if there is progress in the negotiations.
Many have heralded this ceasefire as the first step to a long-lasting peace accord, similar to the one reached with the FARC) last year. However, there are still concerns about the stability of the ceasefire. Adam Isacson, a Colombia expert at the Washington Office on Latin America explains that “it will be a test of trust on both sides, and a real big test of whether the ELN can have its orders complied with by all in the organization”. If they were to break the agreement, it would severely hamper attempts at peace, and would prolong the violent conflict even more.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
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