Peace talks with Colombia’s ELN rebels seem further than ever as the guerrillas continue attacks and warrants for their leaders’ arrest keep piling up.
A low-impact letter bomb exploded in Bogota on Friday in an apparent reminder by the guerrillas that their Urban War Front continues to be active in the capital.
The unit is allegedly behind the recent bombing of a police station in the northern city of Barranquilla that killed five policemen and injured more than 40 officers.
This attack ended negotiations over a bilateral ceasefire and a possible peace agreement that were held in Quito, Ecuador until last month.
Ongoing bombings of the Caño Limon pipeline in northeast Colombia have shut down the pumping of oil to the Caribbean coast for more than a month.
The oil industry was also affected in the southwest of Colombia on Saturday when alleged ELN guerrillas blew up the Transandino pipeline on Saturday.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General has continued requesting arrest warrants for the ELN’s National Directorate and the Central Command.
The judicial body told newspaper El Tiempo last week that it would also seek the arrest of two peace negotiators who continue to be in Quito, Ecuador.
The negotiators are also suspected of involvement in the killing of three demobilized guerrillas of the FARC, the group that laid down its weapons last year to become a political party.
In total, judges have warranted the arrest of 21 members of the group. Five of the suspects are members of the Central Command, the military leadership of the ELN.
In response, the ELN said on Sunday that members of its negotiation team returned to Colombia to consult with the different front about how to overcome the crisis.
Whether the talks between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN will be resumed is increasingly unlikely in spite of persistent calls by social organizations to resume talks and prevent a further escalation of violence.
According to the United Nations, the ceasefire that ended on January 9 significantly improved the humanitarian situation in areas where the ELN’s rural guerrilla units are active.
The Colombian government is in the last six months of its mandate and suffering abysmal approval ratings.
The guerrilla attacks have agitated the electorate, which is set to vote for a new Congress in March and a new president in May.
Conservative candidates have called to end the talks with the ELN. Liberals and social democrats have urged calm, and have supported the government’s decision to suspend talks while waiting for ELN concessions.
The ELN, however, seems unwilling to reduce or end its attacks.
The guerrilla group has been fighting the Colombian state since 1964 and is mainly active in areas where the state has been traditionally weak or absent.