With Colombia scheduled to hold presidential elections on May 29, 2022, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Marxist rebel group, announced a 10-day ceasefire to allow for a peaceful vote – Copyright AFP –
Colombia’s last remaining recognized rebel group on Monday announced a 10-day ceasefire to allow presidential elections later this month to pass off peacefully.
Colombians head to the polls on May 29 with leftist former guerrilla Gustavo Petro the favorite.
“We are declaring a ceasefire from 0:00 on May 25 until 24:00 on June 3, so that those that want to vote can do so in peace,” said the Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) in a statement.
The ELN said it had taken the decision in its own interests to generate a “better atmosphere… so that we can see who could be the winning candidate.”
The ceasefire includes a halt to actions against Colombia’s security forces but the ELN said “we reserve the right to defend ourselves if attacked.”
After the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal with the state in 2016, ELN became the violence-ridden South American country’s last remaining recognized rebel group.
Former president Juan Manuel Santos had been in negotiations with the ELN to also make peace but his right-wing successor Ivan Duque put an end to those discussions following a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota claimed by the Marxist guerrillas that killed at least 20 people.
The government has not commented on this latest ceasefire. The ELN also called a six-day truce in March during legislative elections and presidential primaries.
Formed in 1964 in the wake of the Cuban communist revolution, the ELN can count on around 2,5000 fighters and an extensive support network in urban centers, mostly on the border with Venezuela and along the Pacific coast.
It is largely funded through drug trafficking.
Following the election, Petro is expected to face a second round run-off on June 19 against right-wing candidate Federico Gutierrez.
Petro used to be a member of the 19th of April Movement (M-19), an urban left-wing nationalist guerrilla group that laid down its arms in 1990.
After that he entered politics and served as mayor of Bogota from 2012 to 2015. Petro is currently a senator and has vowed to negotiate with rebels if elected president.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocaine and has been gripped by more than half a century of a multi-faceted conflict involving leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, drug-traffickers and the state.
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