National Liberation Army (ELN) publishes statement on October 15 requesting ceasefire
On October 15 the ELN published a statement requesting Colombian authorities to enact a ceasefire to pursue further peace talks. The statement denounces President Ivan Duque’s purported aggression, indicating that recent operations carried by the group only come as a response to government offensives. The ELN further denounced an alleged government-sponsored campaign to criminalize or prosecute social leaders and coca farmers, arguing that Duque is ignoring commitments made by his predecessor. In turn, Duque reportedly stated on October 16 that he would not negotiate a ceasefire until the ELN releases everyone it has allegedly kidnapped or taken hostage. He further indicated that since the peace process began in 2016, the group has taken part in more than 430 criminal incidents, including the killing of a hundred people. Finally, on October 17, Pablo Beltrán, the chief negotiator of the ELN, published a video statement expressing the same grievances against the government.
Military offensives against the ELN increased significantly earlier in 2018, during the final months of President Manuel Santos’ administration. In this regard, although the militant group is attempting to blame the incumbent president for not investing in the peace track established by his predecessor, President Duque has not implemented a policy shift setting him apart from Santos despite his hawkish rhetoric. While we continue to assess that the ELN is unlikely to commit to the peace process due to its reluctance to forgo criminal practices, the request of a ceasefire is an expected outcome of recent security operations, especially in Arauca, Choco, and Nariño. Against the backdrop of the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the ELN has consistently requested ceasefires to portray peaceful intentions in light of domestic and international pressure, while planning tactical responses to military movements. Considering that Duque secured the presidency partly owing to the failures of the peace process, which increased the popularity of right-leaning platforms, the government is unlikely to yield or for that matter put security operations on hold.