Colombia, ELN guerrillas begin 6-month cease-fire

Colombia, ELN guerrillas begin 6-month cease-fire

Cease-fire marks victory for government after months of negotiations in Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba

By Laura Gamba

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - A six-month cease-fire between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) took effect Thursday after months of talks with the nation’s largest remaining armed rebel group.

"The ELN central command orders all units to suspend offensive operations against the armed forces, police and security organizations of the Colombian state," the group's top commander, Antonio Garcia, said Monday. Garcia warned that the ELN will continue to defend itself during the truce, if needed.

The cease-fire is the product of almost 10 months of talks that have taken place in Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba. The next round of talks will be in September in Venezuela.

The talks have suffered various setbacks, including President Gustavo Petro´s Dec. 31 announcement about a six-month cease-fire with the ELN, which the guerrilla group denied three days later.

The development is part of Petro´s "total peace" policy, an attempt to demobilize all of the country´s remaining rebel groups to resolve a conflict dating back to the 1960s.

And while the cease-fire is a victory for the government, other criminal groups continue to commit crimes, especially in rural areas.

Dissidents commanded by Ivan Mordisco, a breakaway group from the extinct FARC guerrillas, are offering 4 million pesos ($1,000) for every police officer killed.

Under the “pistol plan,” as former drug trafficker Pablo Escobar called it, a patrolwoman was assassinated Wednesday while riding her motorcycle in Neiva.

“I condemn the vile murder of patrolwoman Paula Ortega, 28 years old in Neiva, who leaves behind an 8 year old daughter," Petro wrote on Twitter. "I accompany the pain of all her family. Peace is urgent, we cannot lose more lives in this absurd war.”

The killing was in retaliation for heavy blows against the criminal structure by authorities. Money is also being offered for the theft of weapons and equipment used by police.

Mordisco´s group is seeking to negotiate a peace deal in Norway.




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