Colombia’s last remaining Marxist-inspired rebel group the ELN violated a ceasefire with the government during a raid in southwest Colombia last month, according to comments by the country’s Ombudsman on Tuesday.
Carlos Negret denounced the rebels for their alleged involvement in the incident, which resulted in the deaths of 13 people in the Nariño province on November 27.
Initial reports of the casualties from the confrontation varied but the Mayor of Magüi Payan and the municipal authorities confirmed yesterday that the death toll was 13.
The Ombudsman explained that the fighting broke out when the ELN entered two towns in an attempt to disarm a group supported by dissidence of the 29th front of the demobilized FARC rebels.
According to information obtained with people who directly witnessed the events, on November 27 in the areas of Juanchito and Pueblo Nuevo, located on the banks of the Patia River, around 5 in the afternoon, members of the ELN arrived at the two towns in order to subdue the armed group called ‘Resistencia Campesina’.”
Ombudsman – Carlos Negret
The account from the Ombudsman claims that the local peasant group refused to submit to the ELN and opened fire against the rebels.
In response, the ELN members responded and fired “against everyone, regardless of whether they were members of the civilian population,” said Negret.
Therefore, the agency “will raise before the competent authorities complaints about the violation of the ceasefire and hostilities that this action represents by members of that guerrilla,” he added.
As part of the peace negotiations that began between Colombia’s government and the ELN in February, a bilateral ceasefire was agreed to on October 1.
Both parties vowed to refrain from acts that would affect the civilian population.
The Center for Resources for the Analysis of Conflict (CERAC ), which monitors Colombia’s armed conflict, counted two violations of the ceasefire by the rebels in its monthly report for November adding the assassination of an indigenous governor in the Choco province to this latest alleged massacre.
CERAC reported that “the most positive result of the ceasefire has been the complete cessation of combat between the guerrilla group and the public force since its inception.”
The ceasefire however seems to be fragile, particularly in the provinces of Nariño and Choco where multiple illegal armed groups are vying for control over important coca-growing territory, the base ingredient for cocaine.
In Nariño, hundreds of dissident FARC members have joined multiple post-FARC guerrilla groups. Other illegal armed groups like the ELN and AGC are also active in the region.
Concers over this situation were expressed by CERAC, with its November report concluding that “a high humanitarian risk persists for the civilian population, mainly in the Choco and Nariño Pacific, due to the violent presence and clashes between other armed groups.”