Colombia’s ELN rebel group condemned Sunday’s failed assassination attempt on left-wing presidential candidate Aida Avella, in a statement released Tuesday.
Despite Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon’s allegations that the ELN itself is responsible for the attack, Colombia’s second-largest rebel group blamed “powerful right wing forces” for the ambush of Avella’s armored car and accused the Colombian government of carrying out the attack.
“The ELN condemns the vile attack on the candidate Aida Avella and expresses its solidarity with her and her political movement as well as all political and social movements critical of the current system,” the group stated.
Following Sunday’s attack, in which a car carrying her from a campaign event was riddled with bullets by unidentified motorcyclists, Avella and her Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica – UP) party was quick to criticize the military for its longstanding failure to guarantee the political rights of opposition politicians and political figures.
Avella herself was previously forced into a 19-year exile, after three attempts were made on her life in the early 1990s. During the same period, some 4,000 members of Avella’s Patriotic Union members were murdered by paramilitary groups, working in conjunction with the Colombian military and various politicians.
“This (violent act) marks 65 consecutive years where criminal attacks are used against the opposition to prevent any possibility of substantial political and social change,” the ELN said in its statement, referring to the assassination of populist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan during presidential elections in 1948, which subsequently led to a violent period of political unrest in the country Colombia and, eventually, the current armed conflict.
Defense Minister Pinzon has accused first the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, and then the ELN of perpetrating the most recent attack on Avella, but so far no evidence has been provided to support those claims.
The ELN and the FARC guerrillas have carried out various assassinations and kidnappings over the course of the more than 50-year armed conflict, but have typically targeted right wing, rather than left wing, political figures.
Ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC taking place in Havana, Cuba, do not include the ELN, which has been unsuccessful up until now in soliciting its own peace process.
- Otro Atentado Criminal Contra Aida Abella (ELN Press Release)