Guerrilla group continues to attack infrastructure, take hostages.
Richard McColl -BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday offered a strong reproach to the ELN guerrilla group for their unwillingness to commence formal peace dialogues with the government.
“It’s inconceivable that this group, instead of concrete demonstrations of peace, continues to kidnap and attack infrastructure belonging to all Colombians, just as they did this Friday with another bomb placed on an oil pipeline, causing immeasurable environmental damage, an issue which the group claims to worry about,” Santos said during a televised address.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) continues to maintain hostages in their power and attack infrastructure and that demonstrates a lack of willingness for peace by the guerrillas, according to Santos.
The attack on the Caño Limón-Coveñas oil pipeline took place early Friday in a rural area of the city of Saravena in the department of Arauca that borders Venezuela. Crude oil spilled from the bomb blast has flowed into the nearby Arauca River.
Santos announced March 30 that the phase of exploratory talks prior to formal peace dialogues with Colombia’s second guerrilla group had come to an end. Final details for talks to take place in Ecuador were expected to be announced some time this month.
“We are not going to begin a public phase of negotiations until this group gives up kidnapping and releases every single one of the hostages in their power,” said Santos.
According to data provided by Colombian NGO País Libre, which works to combat kidnapping, extortion and forced disappearances, the ELN has kidnapped 5,590 victims since 1986. The Ministry of Defense claims that since 1996, the figure of those kidnapped by the ELN is 4,590.The ELN is believed by the Colombian military to consist of 1,500 combatants. The larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), currently involved in long-running peace talks with the government, number approximately 7,000 combatants.