Attacks by Colombia’s ELN resume as UN chief visits country

World Today

FILES-COLOMBIA-CEASEFIRE-ELN This file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows a member of the “Omar Gomez” Western War Front of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla being photographed in a camp on the banks of the San Juan River, Choco department, Colombia. After four failed attempts of peace processes and the current one at risk, since on January 10, 2018 the peace talks with the rebel group were suspended, it seems getting the ELN, the last rebel group in Colombia, to silence the rifles became quite a challenge. Both the ELN and the government have accused each other of breaches since the truce began on October 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LUIS ROBAYO)

The United Nations Secretary-General spent the weekend in Colombia in a show of support for the government’s peace initiatives. The visit comes after attacks and a kidnapping by the last remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the Colombian capital with a message of peace. During his official visit with President Juan Manuel Santos, Guterres voiced his ongoing support for the implementation of a peace deal signed last year with FARC rebels.

“There is no justification for armed violence,” he said. “Peace is the only response that can give a solution to problems such as poverty, development, equality and democracy.”

Despite this message, Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, is resuming hostilities after the end of a bilateral ceasefire during the holidays. The rebels have carried out attacks on oil infrastructure, and allegedly killed two policemen and one soldier.

According to the National Police, an oil worker was kidnapped on Saturday morning by the rebels just hours before the UN chief arrived in the country.

The ELN and the Colombian government are currently negotiating a peace deal in neighboring Ecuador.

“We lament that despite the support of the international community and our expressed willingness for a ceasefire, the National Liberation Army (ELN) has chosen to resume its terrorist actions,” President Santos said.

The UN chief made no direct comments on the ELN, and instead said his purpose was to reinvigorate the implementation of the FARC peace deal, which ends 50 years of conflict.

“This mission is clearly a mission of solidarity with Colombia and with the Colombian people, in a historical moment and of enormous importance for Colombia, for Latin America and for the world,” Guterres said.

The UN also offered its support to Colombia to help deal with mass migrations from neighboring Venezuela.  Colombia’s migration authorities estimate more than half a million Venezuelans are in Colombia to escape the political and economic crisis in their own country.