Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN on Friday called for a bilateral ceasefire, criticizing a current protocol of maintaining offensives during peace talks with the FARC as “contradictory” and “generating confusion.”
ELN commander Nicolas Bautista wrote a letter to the Colombian armed forces, announcing that since the peace talks were announced, ELN and government delegations have agreed on two points of negotiation on the agenda.
“The enemies of peace use politics to allow them to continue accumulating profits,” writes Bautista, adding that “soldiers and guerrillas keep on giving their lives on the battlefield, keep causing pain to the population, and in particular, those that live in the territories where the insurgency has always operated, where intense military operations almost always results in more suffering for civilians than the insurgency itself.”
Bautista goes on to blame the Unites States government saying “Colombia’s strategy is imposed by the Pentagon, that accumulates huge profits by being the owners of the war machine that sells to Colombia so that humble Colombians keep killing themselves while they fill their coffers.”
The letter asserts that the ELN rebel group is ready to commit to a bilateral ceasefire, and that the government has not reciprocated.
According to Bautista, the main argument against a bilateral ceasefire used in government is that rebels could use the ceasing of military operations against them as an opportunity to regroup and rearm. In 1999, the FARC used the Caguan peace talks as a guise to rearm and reorganize.
The ELN commander attempted to debunk the argument saying that these days, national and international organizations exist to monitor a potential ceasefire so that the incident will not repeat itself.
Temporary unilateral ceasefires between the FARC and Colombian government during the 2014 elections proved successful in reducing violence, while NGOs kept close watch on both parties.