Earlier in the year, the Colombian Government had made the final peace agreements between the Marxist-Leninist FARC rebels, a groundbreaking accomplishment that ended a conflict with a lifespan of over 50 years. Yet again, the Colombian government has signed a ceasefire between another rebel group, the National Liberation Amry (ELN).
Similarly, the ELN have been fighting the Colombian army for over 50 years. It is suspected that the ELN has fewer than 1,500 active fighters, who are backed by a significant number of sympathizers providing logistical support. Although this seems like a small number, they largest active rebel group in Colombia and literally overnight, have signed a ceasefire agreement starting this Sunday (10-1-2017) that will extend up until mid January of next year.
ELN leader Nicolás Rodriguez ordered his troops to “cease all types of offensive activities to fully comply with the bilateral ceasefire”, as did the Colombian army suspended all offensive operations against the rebel group. Although negotiations have been ongoing for the past eight months, the run-up to the truce has been stalled significantly by ELN attacks on security forces and oil companies, as well as kidnapping hostages.
According to the terms of the truce, the ELN has pledged to stop taking hostages, cease all attacks on roads and oil installations, stop the use of landmines, and halt the recruitment minors. In return, the government has agreed to improve prison conditions for about 450 captured rebels and step up protection for community leaders, many of whom have been increasingly targeted by violence since the start of 2016.
Moderators have been sent by the UN and surprisingly, the Catholic church as well. Of course, representatives of both sides will attend a peace conference, as the first round of peace talks start October 23rd in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito.
One thing that is common among these rebel groups is the ideology that motivates them; Marxism. Although it is a complex and branching ideology, one can only hope that these rebel groups cooperate to stop the violence and implement proper diplomacy. Armed revolution may be seen as a tried and true method, but at the cost of too many lives. The only way for them to really represent and help the working class is to participate in government, run for public office, and implement policy that would truly help people; not engage in guerrilla warfare in the jungle.