By Richard McColl
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - President Juan Manuel Santos ordered an indefinite suspension of peace talks with ELN guerrillas Monday after three bomb attacks killed seven police officers and left countless others injured.
“I have taken the decision to suspend the fifth cycle of negotiations with the ELN,” Santos said from the town of La Palma, Cundinamarca. He demanded the National Liberation Army (ELN) show coherency “between their words and their actions.”
The attacks -- two in the industrial Caribbean city of Barranquilla and another in Buenavista in southern Bolivar, effectively stopped the latest round of peace dialogues that were set to begin this week in Quito, Ecuador.
“The fifth cycle of talks will begin when the ELN conforms to a peace which the Colombian people and the international community demand,” Santos said.
The talks with the ELN, the last guerrilla group remaining in Colombia after the FARC signed a peace agreement in 2016, have remained in limbo since Jan. 10 when a bilateral cease-fire ended.
The ELN once again commenced attacks on oil infrastructure and military installations and both sides have remained unable to reach terms for a new truce.
The guerrilla group published a statement on its website Monday signaling that while a new cease-fire is not established it “will continue to launch military operations wherever they want, just like those happening at the moment.”
A guerrilla fighter believed to have been involved in the first Barranquilla bombing was captured Sunday.
Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have condemned the attacks and loss of lives.
One presidential hopeful for elections in May, German Vargas Lleras, put his support behind Santos’s decision.
“I wholeheartedly share the government’s decision to suspend negotiations with the ELN. The guerrillas have been abusing the Colombian peoples’ desire for peace and this has now ended.”