Colombia has agreed with The National Liberation Army (ELN) to extend a landmark truce deal that expired last week.
The government in Caracas said on Tuesday that it has agreed with Colombia’s largest remaining armed rebel group to extend the suspension of conflict by six months. The deal offers further hope of an end to decades of violence.
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The parties released separate statements early on Tuesday announcing a further six-month extension.
PRÓRROGA DEL CESE AL FUEGO BILATERAL, NACIONAL Y TEMPORAL
Hemos acordado prorrogar a partir de las 00:00 horas del día 6 de febrero de 2024, por ciento ochenta (180) días, el Cese al Fuego Bilateral, Nacional y Temporal (CFBNT).
— Delegación ELN (@DelegacionEln) February 6, 2024
Translation: EXTENSION OF THE BILATERAL, NATIONAL AND TEMPORARY CEASEFIRE
We have agreed to extend, starting at 00:00 [05:00 GMT] on February 6, 2024, for one hundred and eighty (180) days, the Bilateral, National and Temporary Ceasefire (CFBNT).
Government support to replace kidnapping?
Colombia has suffered more than half a century of conflict between the government and various left- and right-wing armed groups, as well as drug traffickers.
ELN started in 1964 as a leftist ideological movement by students, union leaders and priests inspired by Cuba’s revolution. It is believed to have about 4,000 fighters in Colombia, and is also present in Venezuela, where it runs illegal gold mines and drug trafficking routes.
It is also known for staging kidnappings for ransom and attacks on oil infrastructure. The United States and the European Union have listed it as a “terrorist” organisation.
Under the deal, ELN agreed to suspend kidnapping, leading it to ask the government for financial support to replace lost revenue.
The armed group said it will “unilaterally and temporarily suspend economic detentions, a commitment that will be followed up by the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism”.
Long road to truce
In 2016, a peace agreement disbanded the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. That made ELN the country’s largest remaining rebel group. It has since increased its activities in territories formerly under FARC control.
In 2019, peace talks with ELN were called off by conservative former President Ivan Duque after a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 people.
Talks between Bogota and the ELN were relaunched in November 2022 in neighbouring Venezuela. Several rounds of peace talks have followed, with the process supported by Mexico, Norway, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Chile as guarantors.