The Colombian guerrilla group National Liberation Army announced on Monday a unilateral cessation of its military operations until April 30 due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, which so far has left 10 dead and 692 infected throughout the country.
In a statement on its website, the ELN stated that “it is a humanitarian gesture towards the Colombian people, who are suffering from the devastation of the coronavirus.”
He added that “the ELN took into account the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who in the face of the humanitarian crisis created by this pandemic called for an immediate world ceasefire in all the armed conflicts on the planet and we are doing so” .
The High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, stated that he expects the ELN to fulfill its promise. “The government and all Colombians hope that it will be carried out, that it will not be for just one month as citizens need to mobilize through the different routes of the country and armed actions hinder certain needs of the population.”
Iván Cepeda, senator of the opposition Polo Democrático, told The Associated Press that this action “allows that in many territories where the ELN is present, because where there is violence at this time due to the conflict, the coronavirus crisis can be managed much more benevolent ”.
He added that this gesture could open a new route for dialogue with the ELN “if that gesture deepens.”
In turn, Ariel Ávila, an analyst for the non-governmental organization Fundación Paz y Libertad, told the AP that “this gesture was awaited by the ELN. The international community was asking for it. Other groups that are in conflict in other parts of the world have already done so. ”
However, he indicated that the government is not going to respond to this unilateral cessation “because it is busy and focused on the humanitarian crisis due to COVID-19.”
Since late July, the ELN has carried out several attacks, especially against the military and police. In addition to kidnappings, it has attacked the infrastructure of the Colombian state oil company.
The ELN began peace talks with the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) in 2017 in Cuba, although both parties were never able to agree to a ceasefire.
Negotiations with President Duque are frozen because the president has said on several occasions that until the ELN does not release the people it keeps kidnapped and stops committing terrorist actions, they will not sit down to talk.
The ELN was born in 1965 as a political project inspired by the Cuban revolution and currently has some 2,500 combatants, according to General Luis Navarro, commander of the military forces.