The National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) Command and Control Element (COCE) released an official announcement today that the group is willing to support the administration of former guerrilla and now Colombia President Petro. The statement read:
“If the elected President takes office on August 7 to make the changes that lead us to overcome patronage and remove violence from politics, advance in social inclusion plans that include employment and entrepreneurship for the majority, an Agrarian Reform plan, a new model of the fight against drugs and gives continuity to the peace process, Colombia will have a government backed by the popular movement, but if it is installed to do ‘more of the same’ it will have the people in the streets demanding changes with more vehemence than in 2019 and 2021.
The ELN maintains its system of struggle and political and military resistance active, but also its full willingness to advance in a Peace Process that gives continuity to the Table of Conversations initiated in Quito in February 2017.”
The ELN entered tense negotiations with President Santos in 2017 in order to achieve a cease fire leading up to the 2018 presidential elections. The cease fire was tenuous as both sides continued fighting, even after President Marquez was elected. On 17 January 2019, the ELN performed a car bombing at the General Santander National Police Academy in Bogotá, Colombia. The truck detonated and killed 21 people, including the perpetrator, and injured 68 others. It was the deadliest attack on the Colombian capital since the 2003 El Nogal Club bombing and the first attack on the capital since the 2017 Centro Andino bombing. The ELN accepted responsibility for the attack and justified it as a response to the bombings made by the Colombian government during the unilateral ceasefire.
Since then, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides have not negotiated any settled peace. President Petro has a real opportunity, considering his background as a former fighter to bring peace to the troubled nation. The ELN is estimated to have about 3,000 active fighters.