The National Liberation Army (ELN) signed a ceasefire with the Colombian government on October 1. The ceasefire is scheduled to last until early January and is the rebel group’s first agreement with the government in its 50-year history.
The Colombian public approved a sweeping peace deal with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in October 2016. Making peace with ELN however has proved more difficult. The 2,000-member group is also considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.
Under the agreement with the Colombian government, the ELN has pledged to stop taking hostages, using landmines, recruiting minors, and attacking infrastructure and oil installations. ELN Commander Nicolas Rodriguez stated, “All troops across the entire national territory [are ordered]to cease in all offensive activities in order to fully comply with the agreed bilateral ceasefire.” The Colombian government, in turn, has agreed to increase protection for ELN community leaders and improve prison conditions for the estimated 450 rebel inmates.
Representatives from affected communities will monitor ELN’s compliance with the agreement, as will the United Nations and the Catholic Church. This new step in Colombia’s peace process has been praised by the UN Security Council, with Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti saying, “We are confident that both sides have taken the necessary steps to make this an irreversible process.”
Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said that the government will not initiate conflict with ELN. It will, however, enforce the law in cases of criminal activity, such as illicit mining and drug trafficking, committed by the group’s members.