Colombia’s last active guerrilla group holds fire

The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group has announced it’ll stop fighting Colombian forces from today (Thursday), ahead of next month’s agreed ceasefire. Government forces are also halting offensives from today.

What’s the ELN?

Founded in 1964, it’s a 5,000+ member insurgent group with Marxist-Leninist roots, accused of financing its operations through drug trafficking.

And why’s this ceasefire such a big deal?

President Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president, took office last year on a promise to bring ‘total peace’, after decades of violence had led to:

  • 🚨 450,000 lives lost and 50,000 kidnappings
  • 🚶 7.5 million people displaced
  • 💸 A booming drug trafficking industry, and
  • 🔫 Vast swathes of the country under militia control.

If the agreed six-month truce holds, it’ll be the longest ELN ceasefire ever.

Intrigue’s take: It might be a little premature to crank that cumbia just yet, but there are reasons to be optimistic:

  1. The ELN’s early and unilateral pause in hostilities shows goodwill
  2. The ceasefire will be implemented in three phases under international monitoring (by the UN and the Catholic Church), and
  3. Both sides probably know that this moment, with a former guerrilla in the presidency, might be their best shot at real peace for a while.

So we’re gonna go ahead and crank that cumbia anyway.

Also worth noting:

  • President Petro was once part of the M-19 guerrilla group, which eventually demobilised and became a political party.
  • The ELN became Colombia’s main guerrilla group after an historic 2016 peace deal led to the dissolution of the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).