On November 1 President Iván Duque published a statement indicating that security forces killed Rumaldo “El Gurre” Barrientos during an army operation in Valdivia, Antioquia. The militant was considered a prominent member in the National Liberation Army (ELN), responsible for operations in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia, and was suspected of being involved in the death of at least 50 security agents over the course of fifteen years. In the operation security services further detained an underaged militant and seized firearms. Subsequently, on November 2 the mayor of San José del Palmar, in the Chocó Department, León Fabio Marín Moncada, was reportedly detained following suspected connections with the ELN. The mayor allegedly used his influence to finance the group in the region. Finally, on November 3 a 19-year-old Venezuelan militant was reportedly detained in Maicao, in the La Guajira Department.
The killing of “El Gurre” will likely represent a significant blow against the group, especially against the backdrop of mounting military pressure targeting militants. Noteworthily, earlier in March, the army killed José Evaristo Gelvez Galvis, better known as “Cachaco”, who held similar command responsibilities in Bajo Cauca. Furthermore, whilst the detention of the corrupt mayor in Chocó underscores the influence of the group within isolated communities, the detention of a Venezuelan youngster in La Guajira, near the country’s northeastern border highlights transnational recruiting activities, with the ELN exploiting the hardships of Venezuelan citizens to serve its purposes. Although the abovementioned actions against the ELN could potentially trigger retaliatory attacks over coming weeks, given that the group is presently involved in fighting with the rival Popular Liberation Army (EPL, also known as “Pelusos”) in Norte de Santander, attacks are more likely to transpire in other regions where the group operates, including southwestern and northeastern parts of the country.