Small Wars Journal

Colombia’s Lesser Known Rebel Group Still Delivers Violence and Wreaks Havoc

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 7:23am

Colombia’s Lesser Known Rebel Group Still Delivers Violence and Wreaks Havoc by Chris Kraul - LA Times

The Colombian rebel group known as the National Liberation Army delivered an unwelcome new year message, exploding two bombs on the Caño Limon-to-Coveñas oil pipeline in the eastern province of Arauca.


The Jan. 9 attacks disrupted delivery of crude to the Andean country’s major export harbor and caused nasty spills. Though no deaths were reported, the bombings illustrated how the nation remains plagued by insurgent violence that stunts economic development and wreaks havoc in rural areas despite the government’s peace agreement in late 2016 with the 14,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.


The National Liberation Army, better known as ELN, the initials for its name in Spanish, Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, has grown in strength since the FARC demobilized, adding about 1,000 members to the 1,500 fighters it had before the peace deal, said Orlando Hernandez, a former officer with the Colombian National Police and now a security expert with the Agora Consulting risk analysis firm in Medellin. Many of the newer ELN members are former FARC fighters who declined to disarm, he said.


The violent means the ELN uses to pursue its social justice goals for poor or oppressed people have left it with slight public support. The government blames it for 5,700 kidnappings since 1996, and the group is believed to be holding about 250 people hostage. Officials also say the ELN has perpetrated 328 pipeline bombings since 2012, causing numerous oil spills and the loss of more than a million barrels of crude since the start of 2017.

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