Colombia’s last-standing guerrilla group, the ELN, on Monday announced a unilateral ceasefire in March to allow congressional elections.
The group has been carrying out multiple attacks after a bilateral ceasefire with the military expired last month.
This latest measure was announced “as a sign of respect” for Colombians who want to practice their democratic rights in the upcoming election.
“As a sign of respect for Colombians who are voting, the National Liberation Army will halt offensive military operations between 9 and 13 March,” read a statement on the group’s website.
The rebels called on President Juan Manuel Santos to resume peace negotiations in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito.
The president suspended peace talks with the guerrillas after a wave of attacks that followed the expiry of the ceasefire.
“We propose to President Santos to set a date for the start of the fifth cycle of talks and send his delegation to Quito,” the ELN said in the announcement.
“The goal must continue to be developed with rigor and speed … to seek an agreement that overcomes the armed confrontation and to agree on transformations in search of a peaceful and equitable Colombia,” it added.
Santos welcomed the gesture and said he was considering a resumption of the talks that were suspended .
“This statement, if they back it up with action, is exactly the type of gesture we’re looking for to restart talks,” Santos said in an interview with radio station La FM.
“I‘m going to study the statement, verify its authenticity and then we’ll take decisions,” added the head of state.
The talks that were announced in 2014, but did not start until last year have been plagued by a deep-rooted mutual distrust.
The bilateral ceasefire that lasted from October to January was seen as a positive development but a failure to agree an extension saw a wave of ELN attacks terrorize the country with 5 policemen killed and over 40 officers killed in a single attack in the northern city of Barranquilla.
Further attacks such as those on the Caño Limon oil pipeline in the northeast resulted in the collapse of the talks and the nation’s Prosecutor General requesting arrest warrants for the ELN’s National Directorate and the Central Command.
The ELN for its part has criticized the government’s inability to prevent the slaughter of social leaders and human rights activists that have been targeted by paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups as they take part in an ongoing peace process with the now-demobilized Marxist FARC.
The Colombian government is in the last six months of its mandate and suffering abysmal approval ratings.
Colombians will take to the polls twice this year when they vote for a new Congress in March and vote for a successor to President Juan Manuel Santos in May.
Colombia’s armed conflict and the preceding civil war between conservatives and liberals have killed more than 450,000 people over the past 70 years. More than 8 million Colombians were displaced in the past three decades.