The alleged killing of an indigenous governor by Colombia’s ELN rebels is marring peace talks with the government that seeks the demobilization of Colombia’s last standing guerrilla group.
The new round of peace negotiations between Colombia’s government and ELN rebels began Wednesday in Quito.
On Thursday, Colombia’s national indigenous organization ONIC accused the ELN of murdering one of its leaders.
The homicide would be a major violation of a ceasefire agreed with the government last month.
The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has asked United Nations peace observers to investigate the killing of Aulio Isarama, a governor of an indigenous community in the western Choco province.
The ONIC said it believed Isarama was murdered by ELN guerrillas on Tuesday.
Governor Aulio Isarama Forastero was carrying out activities in his community when about five gunmen identified with ELN garments from the Cimarron Resistance front are intimidated and deceived him, saying that they would meet with their bosses. About two hours later, the community hears several shots, which they believe was the moment when they ended the life of the Indigenous Authority. Subsequently, this armed group sends a message to the Community saying they can claim the body.
Additionally, the community said guerrillas from the same rebel front kidnapped a school teacher, apparently the brother of the assassinated governor, earlier this month.
If confirmed, the killing and kidnapping would be a major breach of the ceasefire in which the ELN vowed to refrain from activity that would affect civilians.
The ceasefire was agreed after pressure from communities affected by the conflict and the international community.
In the case of alleged violations like these, the UN and the Catholic Church will be in charge of verifying the claims and leading an attempt to mediate between the warring parties over consequences.
The bilateral ceasefire is the ELN’s first since its formation in 1964.