Colombia’s Minister of Defense said Monday that intelligence officials had intercepted ELN communications discussing their perpetration of the attempted assassination of a leftwing presidential candidate on Sunday.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon alleged that military intelligence officials had intercepted “very specific communications” from the ELN, Colombia’s second largest rebel group, that led defense officials to conclude the ELN committed the attempt on presidential candidate Aida Avella‘s life.
Pinzon said Monday that the attack was carried out by the ELN’s Domingo Lain Sanz Front which belongs to the ELN’s larger Eastern Front because Avella’s convoy failed to stop when prompted by the guerrilla outfit.
Prior to Pinzon’s public statement the new head of the military General Jaime Lasprilla reportedly pinned the attack on the Tenth Front of the FARC, the oldest and largest rebel group in Colombia, who is also active in the northwestern state of Arauca. Lasprilla was made the military’s top general following illegal spying and embezzlement allegations were revealed earlier this month.
Caracol Radio quoted the police chief General Rodolfo Palomino as saying that the attack by the ELN did not appear to be premeditated and the guerrillas could have been confused as to who she was.
Avella herself publicly placed the blame for the attack squarely on the military itself saying “the state has always been linked, punished, and sanctioned” to attacks on her Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica – UP) party.
The UP was originally formed as a political party in 1985 by the politicians aligned to leftist rebel groups as part of an attempt to end the ongoing armed conflict and integrate politically.
The party won seats in the the Colombian congress and senate in 1986 but by 1990 thousands of party members were killed by a coalition of paramilitaries, drug traffickers, members of the security forces and other political groups. The violence forced many surviving politicians to flee the country, including Avella in 1995 after previous assassination attempts.
The Patriotic Union reentered politics in 2013 after more than ten years of exclusion because membership became so low that it lost the right to participate in elections.