Week ahead of ELN peace talks marred by violence and displacement

ELN guerrillas (Image credit: YouTube)

Ahead of Thursday’s opening of peace talks with Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN has relentlessly continued to carry out attacks and spur displacement.

On Sunday, combat between the ELN and the military erupted in Santo Domingo de Silos, a municipality in Norte de Santander in the northeast of the country.

The military was able to arrest two alleged ELN members and seize an undisclosed amount of weapons and ammunition in the town where the combat had taken place after a tip from civilians, the National Army said.

Earlier that day, alleged ELN guerrillas threw an explosive device at the police station inside the town of Hacari, also in Norte de Santander.

Nobody was injured, but the attack left the police station without roof.

Following the eruption of violence in what is considered ELN heartland, local authorities called an emergency security meeting.

On Friday, the government’s human rights office said that almost 250 indigenous have been forcibly displaced from the jungles in west Risaralda after being subjected to extortion and death threats for months.

Five children and two pregnant women were given emergency medical care due to their delicate state of health, the human rights office said.

The agency has been calling on the national government to provide public security in the area for months and issued a formal warning the civilian population was at immediate risk in July already, but this was apparently ignored.

On Thursday, exactly one week before the formalization of talks, two soldiers were injured when alleged ELN rebels detonated a roadside bomb near the city of Arauca, also in the northeast of the country.

While the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the guerrillas have agreed to formally inaugurate the peace talks in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito on October 27, neither party has agreed to cease hostilities during the talks.

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