Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, has allegedly been attacking energy infrastructures to pressure the Colombian government to begin peace talks, according to a report released by Maplecroft Terrorism and Security Dashboard (MTSD), a global analytics company.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) has been responsible for an increasing proportion of attacks on energy infrastructure, providing leverage on the side of the rebels to pressure the Colombian government into initiating a dialogue of peace, according to the report by Maplecroft.
Overall, both the ELN and Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had staged 19 successful attacks on infrastructures during every month of 2013. Rebel groups pose a serious threat in the states of Putumayo, Antioquia, Norte de Santander, and Arauca, according to the report.
Although both rebel groups have been attacking energy infrastructures, with a total of 60 successful attacks during the time frame of June 1, 2013 to July 14, 2014, the ELN is responsible for the largest portion.
From June 1 to July 14 of this year, ELN militants successfully made 10 attacks on energy infrastructures in Colombia while the much larger FARC, with a far greater presence, only carried out six attacks in that sector.
The MTSD report has recently placed Colombia at 11th place on the list of countries with extreme risk of a terror attack.
In November of last year, the ELN officially announced a “war on oil companies” after they claimed responsibility for a slew of attacks in October. This “war” created the highest increase in terror attacks on energy infrastructures in the six-month period, jumping the total to 85 attacks.
The ELN’s Eastern War Front Commander, Manuel Vasquez Castaño, said that the attacks directed at Colombia’s oil infrastructure have been intended to hurt the pockets of multinationals active in the country.
The presence of energy infrastructures such as pipelines, wells, mines, and other installations are in rural areas and face many security risks.
“Once again, we reaffirm our belligerent stance to confront multinationals and their repressive apparatus: the plunderers and exploiters of natural resources,” Castaño said. “Colombia is a colony of North American imperialism — bourgeois elites in power sold to the highest bidder and in the name of democracy deliver natural resources to their Yankee masters.”
The peace talks to come
The ELN has agreed to join formal peace talks with the government earlier in January, although the announcement of the agreement only surfaced in June, days before the presidential election where the current president Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected on his campaign of peace for the country.
However, with the media concentrating on the ongoing peace talks with the FARC, the ELN had a message to send as well, declaring their desire to participate in peace negotiations.
The damage caused
The militaristic “leverage” by the ELN has not only caused damage to energy structures but to the civilian population as well.
In one incident thirteen oil and gas engineers were wounded from an attack on a worker’s encampment along an important oil pipeline.
Two cylinder bombs exploded at a worker’s camp along the Caño Limon-Coveñas pipeline in Colombia’s northeast state of Arauca. The attack was unexpected as these types of attacks generally occur on the actual pipeline or in the oil fields and not against civilian living quarters.
“This time the attack was not against the pipeline itself, but rather against the camp facilities, seriously jeopardizing the integrity of the people who were there at the time,” said Colombia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Amylkar Acosta.
- Report from Maplecroft e-mailed