EspañolColombian President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered his negotiating team to withdraw from talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) following the guerrilla group’s most recent terrorist attack.
The two sides had agreed to a temporary ceasefire, but ELN warned it would attack once it came to an end. The guerrilla group targeted the Cusiana-Cupiagua oil pipeline once and the Caño Limón Coveñas oil pipeline twice. The following morning, President Santos order the military to make a forceful response.
Pedí al jefe de @EquipoPazGob, Gustavo Bell, que se regrese de Quito para evaluar el futuro del proceso. Además, le reiteré a nuestras @FuerzasMilCol la instrucción de responder a estos ataques con contundencia para proteger la vida y la honra de los colombianos: @JuanManSantos
— Presidencia Colombia 🇨🇴 (@infopresidencia) January 10, 2018
Tweet: We were always willing to extend the ceasefire with this organization, or to negotiate a new one. Inexplicably, the ELN rejected these proposals and they began their attacks again this morning, precisely when we should have been starting a new cycle of negotiations.
Tweet: I asked the leader of @EquipPazGod, Gustavo Bell to come back from Quito in order to evaluate the future of the [peace] process. I also reiterated to our @FuerzasMilCol (Colombian armed forces) their instruction to respond to these attacks forcibly in order to protect the lives and honor of the Colombian people.
In an official statement, the negotiating team for the government, led Gustavo Bell, denounced the terrorist actions that compromised their ability to hold dialogues with the ELN.
“The national government has been clear that its wish is to extend the ceasefire and renegotiate conditions that meet the call of all Colombians and the international community,” the statement said. “The aforementioned attacks fly in the face of the government’s disposition, they seriously affect the population once again and ignore the clamor of civil society, political leaders, human rights organizations, the church, friendly countries and the United Nations. These actions are not just an attack on the pipeline, they are a direct affront to the communities.”
This isn’t the first time the ELN has gone back on its agreement to a ceasefire. Last year, just five days into the bilateral ceasefire, the group carried out a similar attack in the rural municipality of Teorama, which caused a pipeline to rupture into the La Cristalina and La Tiradera streams and into the Catatumbo river.
This time around, the oil company Ecopetrol was able to initiate a contingency plan to deal with the resulting oil spill, while also denouncing the attacks in Boyacá and Arauca, which endanger people and the environment, the company said.
Additionally, Ecopetrol sent a message to the communities in La Cañaguata, La Granada and Miramar asking residents to avoid the site where the attack took place.
The oil company also said one of the attacks occurred at 1:40 a.m. local time, near the Cupiagua YZ10 well in an area known as Plan Brisas in the municipality of Aguazul, and at the Volcán Blanco path in the municipality of Casanare.
Meanwhile, the ELN guerrillas released an official statement saying the attacks are a result of a serious conflict in the country. At the same time, the group said it is committed to a political and negotiated solution to the conflict. The ELN’s chief negotiator, Pablo Beltrán, lamented the government’s decision to walk away from the negotiation table.
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“We had made a qualitative leap at the (negotiation) table when developing conversations in the midst of a ceasefire, so we have maintained the decision we had expressed to give continuity to this achievement by agreeing to a new bilateral ceasefire, which would fix the problems with the previous one.”
Former Vice Minister of Defense Rafael Guarín said the massacre of 11 peasants in Nariño and the murder of an indigenous governor are more than enough of reason to order an offensive against the ELN. The government is more interested in protecting terrorists than the population, he said.