Colom­bia’s ELN ac­knowl­edges cease-fire vi­o­la­tion

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

THE ELN, Colom­bia’s last ac­tive guer­rilla group, ac­knowl­edged killing an in­dige­nous leader, a vi­o­la­tion of a his­toric cease­fire agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment as the two sides hold peace talks.

“We deeply re­gret the in­ci­dent and apol­o­gize for this painful case to his fam­ily and loved ones,” the Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army (ELN) said in a state­ment Sun­day about the death of in­dige­nous gover­nor Aulio Isarama Fo­ras­tero in the north­west­ern depart­ment of Choco. Isarama had been de­tained by the gueril­las un­der sus­pi­cion of links with “mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence.”

“On the way to the in­ter­ro­ga­tion, Gover­nor Aulio Isarama Fo­ras­tero re­fused to walk and rushed at one of our guer­ril­las, with the re­sult­ing tragic out­come,” the state­ment said of the death last Tues­day.

It added that the ELN would carry out “an ex­er­cise of re­flec­tion at all in­ter­nal lev­els so that events like this one do not hap­pen again.”

Isarama’s death was the first vi­o­la­tion of the tem­po­rary cease­fire that went into ef­fect Oct. 1 and is meant to last un­til Jan­uary 9, as the Colom­bian gov­ern­ment and ELN lead­ers hold peace talks in the Ecuado­ran cap­i­tal Quito. The 1,500-strong ELN has been in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the gov­ern­ment since Fe­bru­ary.

The gov­ern­ment’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, Juan Camilo Restrepo, wrote on Twit­ter that the killing is “de­plorable from every point of view and dis­ap­point­ing.”

The ELN and the FARC, Colom­bia’s big­gest guerilla group, were formed in 1964 to fight for land rights and to pro­tect ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. The con­flict that raged for more than a half­cen­tury drew in left­ist guer­ril­las, right-wing para­mil­i­tary groups and state forces and left 260,000 peo­ple dead, more than 60,000 miss­ing and seven mil­lion dis­placed. The ELN cease­fire came af­ter a sep­a­rate ac­cord that saw the dis­ar­ma­ment of the FARC. The FARC has since launched a po­lit­i­cal party called the Com­mon Al­ter­na­tive Revo­lu­tion­ary Force that will field can­di­dates in next year’s gen­eral elections. Suc­cess­ful talks with the ELN would seal what Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos calls a “com­plete peace.”

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