Leaders of Colombia’s two largest guerrilla groups, FARC and ELN, met three times on Venezuelan soil to agree the recently announced non-agression pact and improve cooperation between the groups’ armies, newspaper El Tiempo reported on Sunday.
The newspaper based its article on intelligence reports by the Colombian military and the testimonies of demobilized ELN guerrillas.
According to the quoted intelligence reports, the first meeting followed a public statement by ELN commander “Gabino,” calling for the leftist groups to end hostilities and join forces to combat the Colombian state.
The first meeting, between “Antonio Garcia,” ELN’s top commander, and Rodrigo Granda, the FARC’s “foreign minister,” took place in the west of Venezuela at the end of July. During this meeting, the ELN commander repeated his public requests for a cease fire, and the ELN and FARC delegates returned to their bases to propose new strategies to attack the Colombian army, the intelligence reports say.
In September, again in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, the two guerrilla groups met again to move forward with their attempts to stop hostilities and increase cooperation between the leftist insurgents.
According to the intelligence reports, a third meeting was held at the end of October, this time attended by the FARC’s number two, “Ivan Marquez,” and “Gabino.” The guerrilla groups this time were able to reach agreement and the joint public statement wherein the FARC and ELN expressed their aim to unite was released.
The two groups agreed that the FARC would compensate victims of attacks by their guerrillas on members of the ELN and there would be closer contact with the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator, a Caracas-based group that seeks unity among left-wing movements in Latin America.
Both groups allegedly agreed to stay away from Venezuelan government officials to avoid inconveniencing the government of leftist President Hugo Chavez. However, in case of war between Colombia and Venezuela – something both guerrilla groups see as probable – the ELN and FARC would give military support to the Venezuelan army, the intelligence reports say.
Both the FARC and ELN have been fighting the Colombian state since the first half of the 1960s and are considered terrorist groups by both the Unites States and the European Union. A different ideology and conflicting interests have led to numerous violent clashes between the two groups over the guerrillas’ 45 years of existence.