In an interview with the news organization Vanguardia, Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, known commonly as “Gabino,” said that the Santos administration, and the “oligarchy” that allegedly supports it, have no interest in peace or social justice.
“The Santos administration, and the oligarchy that it represents, have no interest in achieving real peace. They are selfish, arrogant, warmongers…they want a peace that does not inconvenience them, one that continues to portray them as powerful and omnipotent,” said Bautista in an exclusive interview with Vanguardia.
The guerrilla leader cited the dismissals of two leftist politicians as examples of the “arrogance of the ruling class.” Speaking of the government’s controversial decision to dismiss former Congresswoman, Piedad Cordoba, and the former mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro, Bautista said, “they [government] invented charges and violations of the law that they did not commit, only because this regime does not tolerate criticism, nor does it tolerate those who make policy decisions in favor of the majority.”
Despite his criticisms, Bautista said that the ELN remains open to dialogue, until it finds a government that is truly willing to engage in conversation.
Bautista was not willing to comment on whether the ELN had initiated any contact with the Colombian government regarding the potential for peace talks.
The ELN has been seeking an official peace process with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos since shortly after the government initiated ongoing peace talks with the FARC rebel group last November in Havana.
Since indicating his government’s willingness to begin a formal negotiation, however, President Juan Manuel Santos has yet to make any public efforts toward doing so.
The ELN, meanwhile, has stepped up pressure on the Colombian government, both in public communications, and in a new wave of high-profile terrorist strikes on the country’s energy infrastructure.
The guerrilla’s recently renewed offensive against Colombia’s energy infrastructure has been interpreted as a strategy to pressure the Colombian government to initiate a formal peace process with the rebels.
In the same interview, Bautista admitted that the ELN included 16 year old fighters in its ranks, justifying their presence by stating, “according to our statutes and regulations, people reach adulthood when they turn 16, once they reach this age men and women may be included in our ranks.” The guerrilla leader also admitted that the ELN is still in possession of hostages, though, “their numbers are much less than we are accused of having.”
Bautista concluded the interview by reiterating the ELN’s alleged desire for peace, “A peace process should lead us to a new system, that is inclusive, tolerant, and pluralist…where conflicts of all types are resolved peacefully, without citizens feeling obligated to take up arms.”
The ELN was originally formed as a Marxist-Leninist/Liberation Theology movement in the 1960s. Today however, the group as currently constituted bears little resemblance to its founding ideology.
Unlike the FARC, the ELN is rooted in oil laborer and student movements, and has a tendency to fight over the country’s energy infrastructure and mining industry.
Peace negotiations in 2002 and 2004 between the rebel group and the administration of Alvaro Uribe failed and military pressure intensified. In response, the ELN allied itself with drug gangs such as the Rastrojos to remain intact.
The ELN, which continues to employ the anti-capitalist rhetoric of its origins as a Catholic-Marxist revolutionary group, has become dependent on the illicit mining and gold trade, running operations throughout the country that exploit Colombia’s rural poor and generate sizable revenue streams for the group’s other activities.
- “Este Gobierno no quiere la paz”: Alias Gabino (Vanguardia)