On the ELN‘s 47th anniversary, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla organization renewed its vows to continue the armed struggle until it achieves its goals.
The insurgent group’s central command published a message on the ELN website commemorating its July 4 anniversary, in which leaders stated that the motives for fighting have not disappeared, but rather, have increased.
“Today, Colombia is a more disastrous, impoverished, unjust, dependent, debased and unliveable country than it was 47 years ago,” stated the ELN’s central command, adding that “the causes that justify armed uprising have worsened: economic exploitation, political exclusion and social impoverishment.”
“For that [reason], rebellion, insurgency and subversion in all of this catastrophic state is not only a necessity, but an obligation … in the middle of the genocide that is getting worse and as a natural survival instinct today, the armed struggle is more urgent than ever,” stated the ELN leaders.
In a separate communique published June 30 on the organization’s website, the ELN denied reports that it has become involved in drug trafficking or kidnappings and assassinations on the Venezuelan border, stating that the reports are the result of right-wing media campaigns. The organization reinforced the denials in the most recent statement by denouncing neo-paramilitary organizations for occupying agricultural land for the growth of drug crops.
The guerrilla organization was founded July 4, 1964 in northwest Colombia as a Marxist-Leninist nationalist movement, on the heels of the Cuban revolution. Since then, the organization has grown to use kidnapping, extortion and attacks on economic infrastructure as means to achieve its ends.
The ELN has dropped in size, from nearly 8,000 rebel soldiers in the early 1990s to approximately 1,500 in 2006, but has recently seen new growth, with numbers back up to 2,000 for the current year, organized crime website InSight Crime reported in June.