Colombia’s ELN declares 10-day ceasefire for presidential vote

Armed rebels say the ceasefire will run from May 25 until June 3 to allow Colombian voters to cast their ballots ‘in peace’.

ELN flag
Rebels from the National Liberation Army (ELN) hold a banner in the northwestern jungles in Colombia in 2017 [File: Federico Rios/Reuters]

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group has announced a 10-day, unilateral ceasefire beginning next week, to allow elections to be held in the South American nation.

In a statement on Monday, the ELN said the pause in hostilities would run from May 25 until June 3 “so that those that want to vote can do so in peace”.

The group said it had taken the decision in its own interests to generate a “better atmosphere … so that we can see who could be the winning candidate”.

It added that it reserved the right to defend itself from attacks, however.

Colombians will head to the polls on May 29 to vote for a new president to lead the country until 2026.

Left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro and centre-right hopeful Federico Gutierrez lead opinion polls going into the first round of voting to replace President Ivan Duque.

If neither candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes in the first round, a second vote will take place on June 19.

The ELN regularly declares ceasefires to facilitate voting in Colombia, most recently in March during the country’s legislative elections and presidential primaries.

The government has not commented on the latest ceasefire, but it has before labelled such moves as attempts to influence elections.

The ELN is the largest remaining armed group in the country, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal with the government in 2016.

Former President Juan Manuel Santos had been in negotiations with the ELN to reach a peace deal, but Duque put an end to those discussions in 2019 following a car bomb attack on a police academy in the capital, Bogota, claimed by the group that killed at least 20 people.

Formed in 1964, the ELN can count on around 2,500 fighters and an extensive support network in urban centres, mostly on the border with Venezuela and along the Pacific coast. It is largely funded through drug trafficking, authorities say.

Source: News Agencies