A video surfaced on Wednesday showing heavily armed ELN rebels patrolling the periphery of Colombia’s second largest city. The men and women are masked, with some wearing ELN logos on their sleeves. The rebels were filmed putting up flags and spraying “ELN” on walls.
The video was posted on Youtube on August 30 and later promoted by the ELN’s radio station on Twitter. The area allegedly patrolled is Bello, a municipality bordering Medellin to the south.
Defying the evident, Bello authorities said military intelligence ruled out any ELN presence.
“We have made all consultations, including with military intelligence and security forces, and there is no truth to the claim. At no time is any report showing that there is a presence of these armed groups in Bello,” said Edgar Callejas, the government secretary of Bello and in charge of public security in the town.
The ELN is Colombia’s second largest rebel group after the FARC with some following among extremist students in Medellin public universities.
In the beginning of this century, the group used to control several neighborhoods across Medellin. However, a military offensive carried out by state and paramilitary forces between 2001 and 2002 forced the rebels to flee the city and leave their neighborhood to local militias and forces belonging to paramilitary umbrella group AUC.
The rebels are currently in the preliminary stages of peace talks with the government after having fought the state for half a decade. President Juan Manuel Santos announced the ELN peace talks during days before the presidential elections in June, but has since barely talked about it.
And in another video released Wednesday by the ELN command structure they claim, that the negotiations are making minimal progress.
An ELN commander points the finger of blame at the government for attempting to misrepresent the will of ELN to come to a peaceful conclusion, and claims Bogota is trying to force the ELN to surrender rather than engaging in a two-sided compromise.