The group central commands have called on all of their active units to suspend any military offensives against the Colombian state from May 20 until May 28, ostensibly in a show of good will to the Colombian people and in the hope of encouraging the peace process. Colombia’s presidential elections are scheduled for Sunday, May 25.
A partir de las 00:00 horas del martes 20 de mayo, hasta las 24:00 horas del miércoles 28 de Mayo. FARC y ELN ordenan cese al fuego. — Diálogos Paz FARC (@FARC_EPaz) May 16, 2014
Both rebel groups have asked for mutual ceasefires in the past, particularly the FARC, which has been engaged in ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government since November 2012. The government, however, has repeatedly rejected the idea, and hostilities between the parties have continued.
In a joint press release, commanders from the FARC and the ELN wrote, “In order to promote more favorable conditions for the peace talks [between the FARC and government], we have declared unilateral ceasefires, which paradoxically have led to the intensification of regime offensives.”
The statement goes on to read, “The insurgency does not believe in the Colombian electoral system; we, like millions of countrymen, think that corruption, cronyism, fraud and dirty tricks of all kinds lead to the illegitimacy of the results and scandals, which now gives more strength to our claims.”
|“We believe that such a strong national outcry should be addressed; we’ll see if there is a change to the language, the orders of senior officials and members of the military and police leadership”|
“However, we believe that such a strong national outcry should be addressed; we’ll see if there is a change to the language, the orders of senior officials and members of the military and police leadership,” it continued.
The statement ended expressing hope that the joint gesture would “act as a beacon of hope for a bilateral ceasefire” and was signed by Nicolas Rodriguez, alias “Gabino,” of the ELN and Timoleon Jimenez, alias “Timochenko” of the FARC, the respective leaders of the guerrilla organizations.
Unilateral ceasefire, a tough promise to keep
This is not the first time the rebels have declared a unilateral ceasefire. Most recently, the FARC announced it would suspend all military offensives for a month, starting last December 15.
Independent reports subsequently revealed that while incidents of rebel violence did diminish significantly during the “good will” period, they did not cease entirely.
One conflict research group, the Center of Resources for the Analysis of Conflict (CERAC), went on to claim that the incomplete compliance was a result of the “disintegration” of formal FARC command structures, echoing reports from other conflict monitoring groups that the FARC central leadership is no longer in complete control of its various semi-independent blocs.
This is likely a result of United States-aided government offensives to hunt the rebels, which rely on communication intercepts and other tech-based tracking methods. Over the course of the past decade, the FARC has been forced to split into increasingly autonomous mobile command units so as to avoid government persecution.
The fragmentation of the FARC has led many to express concerns over the ultimate potential success of the peace process. The partial ceasefire has been used to bolster arguments that the entire FARC hierarchy is not in agreement over the group’s involvement in negotiations, and that any eventual agreement would be skirted by various elements within the FARC.
President Juan Manuel Santos has previously stated that there will be no bilateral ceasefire with the FARC until a final peace accord is reached at ongoing peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba.
Santos has previously said that any such suspension of military activity would give an advantage to the rebels.
During the failed 1998-2002 peace talks between the FARC and the government of ex-President Andres Pastrana, the FARC was given a demobilized buffer zone roughly the size of Switzerland in southwestern Colombia. The rebels went on to use the area and the protection it provided to expand their organization and recruit more troops.
ELN still on the outskirts of the peace process
While the ELN has repeatedly called for the initiation of a formal peace process similar to the most recent one extended to the FARC, the government has yet to follow through on previous indications that it would be willing to negotiate with the rebels.
Critics have pointed out that any peace agreement with the FARC would only represent a partial step toward an end to Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict so long as the ELN is left out of the process. The International Crisis Group has been among various independent organizations to call for a more inclusive negotiation process, recently publishing a report advocating that the government take up talks with the ELN.
Last summer, the ELN released a foreign hostage in exchange for the start to formal dialogues. So far, no such talks have manifested.
At the beginning of the year, there were reports that the government was discussing the possibility of Ecuador playing host to an eventual negotiation table. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, as well, has indicated a willingness to open his country’s borders to peace talks. However, no new information has emerged in recent months.
- Cese al fuego electoral (FARC – ELN Joint Statement)