ELN guerrilla movement announces ceasefire to alleviate coronavirus crisis

Colombia’s last remaining guerrilla organisation, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has announced a month-long ceasefire in response to the country’s attempts to control the coronavirus pandemic.

The ELN has stated its desire to hold peace negotiations with the Colombian government of Iván Duque. Although the organisation was involved in negotiations with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, the current administration has refused to restart them. The United Nations has urged the government to negotiate with the ELN, while Colombian trade unions, opposition parties and sectors of the Catholic Church have called for peace talks to resume.

In a statement to announce the unilateral ceasefire, the ELN said it wanted to open new talks with Duque’s government. ELN negotiators have remained in Cuba since the end of previous peace talks with the Santos administration.

The statement expressed concern over the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. ‘Large informal sectors, which account for around 60 per cent of workers, are subject to a mortal dilemma: stay at home to avoid getting infected, but if they don’t go to work they’ll die of hunger,’ said the statement. It also warned against increased militarisation during the health crisis, which it said would ‘favour the interests of large economic conglomerates and foreign capital.’

In response to the ceasefire, the United Nations said ‘[t]he Secretary General welcomes the announcement by the … ELN of a one-month unilateral cease-fire starting on 1 April to facilitate the response in Colombia to the outbreak of the COVID-19.’