Colombia’s Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) released several soldiers last week in the Arauca province, and they are believed to be holding an additional six security force members and ten civilians hostage. Although the ELN stated that they were going to “release the hostages regardless,” the ELN described the terms of Duque’s negotiations unacceptable. Liberation of hostages was not one of the preconditions for negotiation talks, stated the rebel group.
What is the ELN?
The ELN is an armed group involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict, which has existed in the country and region since 1964. The ELN advocates for the communist ideology of Marxism and general liberation theology. As of 2016, there were an approximate 2,500 active members.
Duque, Colombia’s newest president who promised a hard line on rebel groups and significant economic reform for the south American country, will “not allow violence to be used as a political tool” stated the country’s High Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos. Former president Juan Miguel Santos had previously required hostage liberation as part of any negotiations with the group.
Official Statement from the ELN
Posted on the ELN’s official website, the group stated:
“By not recognizing the deals made with the state and adding, unilaterally, unacceptable conditions, this government is closing the negotiating table, ending the process of dialogue and the efforts made over several years by the ELN, society, the previous government and the international community”
Duque is taking a 30-day evaluation period to determine the Colombian government’s official policy on continuing official peace talks with rebel groups in the country.