On November 20 the Colombian Foreign Ministry requested Cuba to provide information regarding the possible presence of the National Liberation Army (ELN) on the island, including its leader, Nicolás Rodríguez, better known as “Gabino”. Moreover, President Iván Duque announced that his country will sever diplomatic ties with Venezuela as of January, accusing Caracas of supporting and sheltering ELN militants. In turn, Venezuelan sources accused Duque of carrying “desperate measures” only to improve his popularity domestically.
These developments underscore Duque’s willingness to confront Cuba and Venezuela over their suspected ties to far-left groups in Colombia. Coupled with ideological affinity between the ELN and the Cuban government, the fact that Gabino seeks to represent the group in potential negotiations in Havana reinforces suspicions directed toward Cuban authorities for allegedly sheltering wanted militants. Likewise, Colombian and Western security services believe elements within the Venezuelan armed forces are supporting militants, thus involving themselves in drug-trafficking activities. Whether the Venezuelan government is involved in these transactions or not, ELN militants have regularly clashed with Venezuelan security agents in border areas, thus highlighting the permeability of both sides of the border. Bearing in mind that dialogue between Bogota and Caracas is not yielding results in terms of improving the security situation, we assess that Duque is likely to carry through his commitment to sever diplomatic relations.