National Liberation Army (ELN)

The National Liberation Army (ELN) is Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group, formed in 1964 following the decade of Colombian civil war, from 1948-1958, known as La Violencia.

Key Statistics

1964 First Recorded Activity
1965 First Attack
2019 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last updated July 2019

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. “National Liberation Army.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2019. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/national-liberation-army-eln

Organizational Overview

Formed: July 4, 1964

Disbanded: Group is active.

First Attack: January 7, 1965: The ELN seized Simacota, a small town in Santander. Following the attack, founder Fabio Vasquéz Castaño along with Victor Medina Moron read the ELN’s proclamation and announced their existence as a group (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[1]

Last Attack: January 17, 2019: According to Colombian authorities, the ELN set off a car bomb outside a police academy in Bogotá (21 killed, dozens wounded).[2]

 

Executive Summary

Brothers Fabio and Manuel Vasquéz Castaño founded the National Liberation Army (ELN) in 1964. The brothers’ Marxist-Leninst group sought to defend Colombians whom they believed to be victims of social, political, and economic injustices perpetrated by the Colombian state. The Colombian military decimated the ELN in 1973; however, the group was able to rebuild from just 65 members. The ELN’s involvement in the drug trade and kidnapping practices helped the group grow to over 4,000 members at its height in 1999. Since its emergence in the drug trade, the ELN has also been highly active in illegal gold mining throughout both Colombia and Venezuela. Although the ELN had been in steady decline since 2000, the group has grown back to a size of 3,000 fighters, capitalizing on the Venezuelan refugee crisis as well as dissident ex-FARC members. Now seeking an end to over 50 years of violence, the ELN has been involved in peace talks with the Colombian government, with rounds in 2014 and 2017. However, the Colombian government has halted the talks indefinitely due to the ELN’s ongoing militant activities, particularly kidnapping and the ELN’s attack on a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019.

 

Group Narrative

The National Liberation Army (ELN) is Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group. It was formed in 1964 by brothers Fabio and Manuel Vásquez Castaño following the decade of Colombian civil war from 1948-1958, known as La Violencia. The Cuban Revolution and Che Guevarra inspired students, Catholic radicals, and leftist intellectuals to form the ELN to fight for a popular democracy in Colombia.[3] The ELN’s founding members, former members of the Brigada Pro Liberación Nacional, a scholarship program in Cuba, felt the Colombian majority was excluded by the state. They sought to take over the government and replace it with one that was more representative.[4]

In July 1964, the insurgent group started training in the Province of Santander. Six months later, in January 1965, the insurgents took over a small village in Santander and officially announced themselves as the ELN. The ELN spent the following years organizing and gathering recruits, who were primarily priests from the Catholic Church. The ELN’s steady growth was halted in 1973 when a government military offensive almost eliminated the group in its entirety; 135 of the 200 members, including founders Fabio and Manuel Vásquez Castaño, were killed.[5] The ELN’s near destruction became a pivotal moment for the group in which Manuel Perez and Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, known as “Gabino,” took over leadership.

While the ELN had previously shied away from kidnapping for ideological reasons, under Gabino and Perez’s new leadership, it started kidnapping politicians and wealthy landowners for revenue in order to rebuild the group. In 1975 and 1976, the ELN’s main activities were bank robbing, kidnapping, and assassinating military members.[6] By the 1980s, ELN members had become expert kidnappers, operating on boats, vehicles, and airplanes. In the 1990s, the ELN started targeting and extorting the employees of many oil companies operating in its area of control. In 1998 alone, the ELN earned $84 million from ransoms and $225 million from extortion of oil company employees.[7]

Initially, the ELN avoided the drug trade unlike other Colombian groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC). Instead, the ELN focused on furthering its political goals.[8] However, this changed by the late 1990s. The ELN started taxing coca and marijuana growers, especially in the Bolivar Province, where the group had established its headquarters.[9]

In 1999, the ELN reached its peak with between 4,000 and 5,000 members and about 15,000 supporters.[10] However, the 2000s marked a period of decline for the ELN. The ELN suffered from internal conflict and faced new external threats. Increasingly influential paramilitary forces, such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and Death to Kidnappers (MAS), directly targeted leftist guerrilla groups throughout the 1990s. As a result, the ELN lost large amounts of territory in the Bolivar Province, including their former home base.[11] In 2001, the ELN started peace talks with the Colombian government, but the talks quickly failed. Some argue that Colombian President Pastrana was more interested in negotiating with the FARC than with the ELN and that this preference may have led to the failure of the 2001 peace talks.[12] After Pastrana left office, the ELN engaged in peace talks with the Uribe administration. These peace talks, hosted in both México and Cuba, also failed.[13] By 2009, the ELN showed signs of internal fragmentation; units started disobeying leaders’ orders and allying with drug traffickers for financial security.[14]

Beginning in 2009, reports of the ELN referred to the group as a weakened and forgotten force.[15] In 2012, the ELN was not invited to the peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. Analysts speculate that the Colombian government denied the ELN admission to the peace talks because the government no longer viewed the ELN as a threat.[16] Angered by its exclusion, the ELN immediately responded by killing police officers and blowing up oil pipelines in 2012. In 2013, the ELN continued to increase attacks and declared war on oil companies.

In June 2014, President Santos’ government restarted exploratory talks with the ELN.[17] The ELN entered into formal peace talks with the Colombian government in 2017; however, the government suspended the talks following the ELN’s attack on a police academy in January 2019.[18] In response to the attack, President Duque called on Cuba to arrest and extradite the 10 ELN leaders who had been attending the peace talks in Cuba.[19]



[1] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[2] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia Asks Cuba to Capture ELN Leaders after Attack on Police..." Reuters. 19 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-blast/colombia-asks-cuba-to-....

[3] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218; “Profiles: Colombia’s armed groups.” BBC Latin America & Caribbean. BBC News. 29 August 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-11400950

[4] Craig-Best, Liam. “Interview with ELN Commander Antonio García.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 August 2000. Web. 23 July 2015. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia25.htm; “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218; Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[5] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile; Edling, Zach. “ELN.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 22 October 2012. Web. 30 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln/

[6] “ELN INSURGENCY IN COLOMBIA 1966-PRESENT.” ON WAR. N.p. N.d. Web. 12 August 2015. https://www.onwar.com/aced/chrono/c1900s/yr60/fcolombia1966.htm; “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[7] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218

[8] McDermott, Jeremy. “Colombia’s ELN rebels show new vigour.” BBC. BBC News. 5 November 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8341093.stm

[9] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[10] McDermott, Jeremy. “Colombia’s ELN rebels show new vigour.” BBC. BBC News. 5 November 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8341093.stm; “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[11] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[12] Dayani, Martin. “Pastrana Shows ‘Disdain’ for the ELN.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 3 September 2001. Web. 31 July 2015. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia79.htm

[13] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[14] “Colombian rebels seek FARC truce.” BBC News. BBC. 24 May 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8066191.stm

[15] McDermott, Jeremy. “Colombia’s ELN rebels show new vigour.” BBC. BBC News. 5 November 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8341093.stm

[16] Molinski, Dan. “Colombian Rebel Group Steps Up Violence.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 15 January 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323596204578241902662204058

[17] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile; Gligorevic, Tihomir. “Colombia: Peace TalksWith ELN To Begin In September.” InSerbia Network Foundation. N.p. 7 August 2015. Web. 10 August 2015. http://inserbia.info/today/2015/08/colombia-peace-talks-with-eln-to-begi...

[18] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w...

[19] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia Asks Cuba to Capture ELN Leaders after Attack on Police..." Reuters. 19 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-blast/colombia-asks-cuba-to-....

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Leadership

The ELN’s highest level of leadership is the Central Command (COCE). As of 2019, the COCE is comprised of Gabino, Antonio Garcia, Pablo Beltrán, Ramiro Vargas, and Pablito.[1] The COCE oversees all ELN operations: political, military, financial, and international. Below the COCE is the National Directorate; its 23 members serve as the point people between the COCE and the ELN’s Fronts.[2] The leadership system of the ELN is largely decentralized.[3] There are seven fronts to the ELN, each of which operates as an autonomous organization. According to Amnesty International, the group’s sub-units are “loosely united under a central authority.”[4] In addition to its seven fronts, the ELN also has urban militias in some of Colombia’s major cities.[5] Below are notable leadership of the ELN:

Fabio Vásquez Castaño (1964-1973): Fabio Vásquez Castaño was a founding member of the ELN. During the 1965 seizure of Simacota, he read the ELN’s proclamation that established the group and outlined its goals. Vásquez Castaño pushed the ELN to be very active militarily, as he thought that political and ideological training would inhibit military advancement. Vásquez Castaño and his brother died in the 1973 Colombian military offensive.[6]

Victor Medina Moron (1964-1966/7): Before founding the ELN, Medina was a leader of Santander’s Communist Party. Medina believed that, before delving into combat, it was important for the ELN to develop a sound political foundation. This led to conflict between Vásquez Castaño and Medina. In 1967, Vásquez Castaño and his brother murdered Medina for disagreeing with their approach.[7]

Jaime Arenas (1964-1968): Jaime Arenas was a founding member of the ELN but distanced himself from the group in 1968. Arenas intended to publish a book exposing the ELN’s internal purges, militarism, and sectarianism. ELN leaders allegedly murdered Arenas in Bogotá shortly after they learned of his intentions.[8]

“Father Torres,” also known as Father Camilo Torres Restrepo (January 7, 1966-February 15 1966): Father Torres was a Roman Catholic Priest who studied the ELN from its inception and was taken with their goals and purpose. On January 7, 1966, Father Torres met with the group in Santander and was given arms soon after. On February 15, 1966, Father Torres died in his first combat and became a martyr for the ELN.[9]

“El Cura Pérez,” also known as Father Manuel Pérez Martínez or “Poliarcho” (1973-1998): Cura Pérez joined the ELN in 1969. In 1973, Cura Pérez took leadership of the ELN with Gabino. He died in February 1998 from hepatitis.[10]

“Gabino,” legal name Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista (1973-Present): Gabino joined the ELN in 1964 when he was 14. Gabino took part in the ELN’s first attack in 1965. In 1973, Gabino joined the Central Command and took joint leadership of the group alongside El Cura Pérez. Gabino is the Commander in Chief of the ELN and member of the Central Command.[11] Reports published in January 2019 confirmed that Gabino has fled Colombia to evade arrest.[12]

“Antonio Garcia,” legal name Eliécer Erlinto de Jesus Chamorro (1980s-Present): Antonio Garcia joined the ELN in the mid-1970s. Following El Cura’s death in 1998, Antonio Garcia became the ELN’s military commander. His responsibilities included military strategy and weaponry.[13] Garcia has been a member of the ELN’s Central Command since the 1980s. Garcia is also one of the ELN’s negotiators, and his arrest warrant was nullified in 2006 to allow him to participate in peace talks with the government.[14] In March 2016, he was the leader of the ELN’s delegation to set the agenda for the following peace negotiations with the Colombian government.[15]

Francisco Galán (1991-2008): Galán has been a political spokesperson for the ELN since 1991. In 2000, he was released temporarily to meet with President Pastrana’s negotiators and discuss the prospect of peace between the ELN and the Colombian government.[16] In 2005, President Álvaro Uribe released Galán from prison for three months to participate in peace negotiations. In April 2008, the ELN renounced Galán’s status as spokesperson and member of the negotiating team because his actions in negotiations with the Colombian government were not representative of the ELN.[17]

“Pablito,” also known as Carlos Marin Guarin, legal name Gustavo Anibal Giraldo Quinchía (Unknown-Present): In 2000, Pablito became commander of the ELN’s Front of East War. He headed his ELN operations in Apure, Venezuela until 2008, when Colombian authorities captured him while he was using the alias Carlos Marín Guarín. In 2009, Pablito escaped from prison in Arauca, Venezuela with the help of other ELN guerrillas. Pablito is the newest member of the Central Command.[18] Pablito was allegedly one of the orchestrators of the January 2019 attack in Bogotá.[19] As of January 2019, Pablito has fled Colombia for Venezuela.[20]

Pablo Beltrán, legal name Israel Ramírez Pinead (Unknown-Present): Beltrán appears to be a spokesperson for the ELN. In interview appearances, he frequently outlines the ELN’s mission, goals, and beliefs.[21] Beltrán is a member of the ELN’s Central Command.[22] The Colombian government recognized Beltrán as a representative member of the ELN in 2007, which allowed him to join the negotiating team for the peace talks in Cuba.[23] In May 2019, Beltrán gave an interview in which he reaffirmed the ELN’s commitment to peace and criticized President Duque’s cessation of negotiations.[24] As of June 2019, Beltrán has remained in Cuba to evade arrest.[25]

Ramiro Vargas, legal name Rafael Sierra Granados (Unknown-Present): Ramiro Vargas was involved in the exploratory talks with the Colombian government in 2002. In 2006, President Uribe nullified Vargas’ arrest warrant, recognizing him as a spokesperson for the ELN as part of the peace process.[26] As of July 2019, Vargas is a member of the Central Command.[27]

Alex Bonito (Unknown-Present): According to the International Crisis Group in 2019, Bonito is the local leader of the ELN guerrilla forces in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas. Bonito oversees the ELN’s extensive illegal mining operations in the region.[28]


[1] Rp, TeleSUR /. "Colombia Issues Arrest Orders Against ELN's Central Command." News | TeleSUR English. 26 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Colombia-Issues-Arrest-Orders-Against-ELNs-Central-Command-20190126-0014.html.

[2] “Desde Venezuela, ‘Pablito’, jefe del ELN siembra el terror en Arauca.” El Tiempo Archivo. N.p. 5 August 2012. Web. 12 August 2015. http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-12096088; “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 12 August 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[3] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w....

[4] United Nations. "Colombia: The National Liberation Army (Ejército De Liberación Nacional - ELN), including Number of Combatants and Areas of Operation; Activities, including Ability to Track Victims; State Response and Protection Available to Victims (2016-April 2018)." Refworld. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/docid/5afada6c4.html.

[5] ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/

[6] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[7] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[8] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[9] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[10] “Pérez Martínez, Manuel (1943-1998.” MCN Biografías. N.p. N.d. Web. http://www.mcnbiografias.com/app-bio/do/show?key=perez-martinez-manuel

[11] “Colombia’s ELN Rebels” Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail.” Voice of America. N.p. 24 April 2015. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-colombia-eln-rebels-say-peace-talks-n... “Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias ‘Gabino.’” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/nicolas-rodrig...

[12] Caracol Radio. "Ejército: Alias 'Gabino' No Está En Colombia." Caracol Radio. 03 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://caracol.com.co/radio/2019/01/03/nacional/1546515246_022597.html

[13] “Eliecer Erlinto Chamorro, alias ‘Antonio Garcia.’” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eliecer-erlint... “El lado politico de Antonio García” Semana. N.p. 22 April 2006. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/el-lado-politico-antonio-garcia/78...

[14] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/6fbc91d2529b493119d3d26a1be9b6e6.pdf;

[15] “Acuerdo de dialogos para la paz de Colombia entre el Gobierno Nacional y el Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional” March 2016.  https://www.eltiempo.com/contenido/politica/proceso-de-paz/ARCHIVO/ARCHIVO-16549986-0.pdf

[16] García-Peña, Daniel. “The ELN Creates a Different Peace Process.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 November 2000. Web. 27 July 2016. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia41.htm

[17] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application...

[18] Buitrago, Sair. "Expiden Circular Roja Contra Antonio García Y Ramiro Vargas, Del Eln." El Tiempo. 06 November 2018. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/expiden-circular-roja-contra-antonio-garcia-y-ramiro-vargas-del-eln-290282.   

[19] Colombiareports. "Almost Half of ELN's Forces Are in Venezuela, Colombia's Military Claims." Colombia News | Colombia Reports. 09 May 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://colombiareports.com/almost-half-of-elns-forces-are-in-venezuela-....

[20] Caracol Radio. "Ejército: Alias 'Gabino' No Está En Colombia." Caracol Radio. 03 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://caracol.com.co/radio/2019/01/03/nacional/1546515246_022597.html.

[21] “Pablo Beltrán: El Rostro Del ELN En Alemania.” EL TIEMPO. N.p. 16 July 1998. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-775515; Abreu, Olga. “Entrevista a Pablo Beltrán, comandante del ELN.” TARINGA!. N.p. 2010. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.taringa.net/posts/info/6036208/Entrevista-a-Pablo-Beltran-com...

[22] Rp, TeleSUR /. "Colombia Issues Arrest Orders Against ELN's Central Command." News | TeleSUR English. 26 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Colombia-Issues-Arrest-Orders-Against-ELNs-Central-Command-20190126-0014.html.

[23] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/6fbc91d2529b493119d3d26a1be9b6e6.pdf

[24] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w....

[25] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w....

[26] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/6fbc91d2529b493119d3d26a1be9b6e6.pdf;

[27]  Rp, TeleSUR /. "Colombia Issues Arrest Orders Against ELN's Central Command." News | TeleSUR English. 26 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Colombia-Issues-Arrest-Orders-Against-ELNs-Central-Command-20190126-0014.html.

[28] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.  

 

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

 

Size Estimates

  • 1972: 200 (Colombia Reports)[1]
  • 1973: 65 (Colombia Reports)[2]
  • 1990s: 8,000 (Christian Science Monitor)[3]
  • 1998: 4,000 (El País)[4]
  • 1998: 5,000 (Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War)[5]
  • 2001: 3,500 (Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War)[6]
  • 2006: 2,000 (Christian Science Monitor)[7]
  • 2009: 1,500 (BBC)[8]
  • 2010: 5,000 (Colombia Reports)[9]
  • 2013: 1,380-3,000 (Tracking Terrorism)[10]
  • 2013: 3,000 (The Wall Street Journal)[11]
  • 2014: 2,500 (Pares)[12]
  • 2015: 2,000 (Voice of America News)[13]
  • 2015: 2,000 (BBC)[14]
  • 2015: 2,000 (Reuters)[15]
  • 2015: <2,000 (InSight Crime)[16]
  • 2017: 2,000 (Reuters)[17]
  • 2018: 3,000 (Colombia Reports)[18]
  • 2019: 2,402 (Reuters)[19]


[1] Edling, Zach. “ELN.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 22 October 2012. Web. 27 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln

[2] Edling, Zach. “ELN.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 22 October 2012. Web. 27 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln/

[3] McDermott, Jeremy. “ELN rebel group makes a comeback in Colombia.” Christian Science Monitor. N.p. Web. 28 June 2011. Web 30 July 2015. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2011/0628/...

[4] “Fallece el ‘cura’ Manuel Pérez, jefe de la segunda guerrilla colombiana.” El País Archivo. N.p. 7 April 1998, Web. 30 July 2015. http://elpais.com/diario/1998/04/07/internacional/891900015_850215.html

[5] Livingstone, Grace. Inside Colombia : Drugs, Democracy and War. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

[6] Livingstone, Grace. Inside Colombia : Drugs, Democracy and War. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

[7] McDermott, Jeremy. “ELN rebel group makes a comeback in Colombia.” Christian Science Monitor. N.p. Web. 28 June 2011. Web 30 July 2015. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2011/0628/...

[8] “Colombian rebels seek Farc truce.” BBC News. BBC News. 24 May 2009. Web. 27 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8066191.stm

[9] Hinchliffe, Tim. “Colombian Army bombs ELN camp killing 7, wounding 4.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 21 December 2011. Web. 27 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/colombian-army-bombs-eln-camp-killing-7-guerr...

[10] “Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium. N.p. N.d. Web. 27 July 2015. http://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/ejercito-de-liberacion-nacional-eln

[11] Molinski, Dan. “Colombian Rebel Group Steps Up Violence.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 15 January 2013. Web. 27 July 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323596204578241902662204058

[12] “Lo que Hemos Ganado.” Fundación Paz & Reconciliación. N.p. N.d. Web. 27 July 2015. http://www.pares.com.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Descargue-Informe-Com...

[13] “Colombia’s ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail.” Voice of America. N.p. 24 April 2015. Web. 27 July 2015. http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-colombia-eln-rebels-say-peace-talks-n...

[14] “Farc rebels says ELN must join Colombia peace process.” BBC Latin America & Caribbean. BBC News. 13 May 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32731754

[15] “Colombia’s ELN rebels likely behind Bogota blasts – president.” Reuters. N.p. 3 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/03/colombia-explosions-eln-idUSL1N0ZJ0VV20150703

[16] Gurney, Kyra. “Colombia Announces Peace Talks with ELN Guerrillas.” InSight Crime. N.p. 11 June 2014. Web. 5 August 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/colombia-announces-peace-talks-w...

[17] Acosta, Luis Jaime. "Colombia's ELN Rebels Willing to Call Ceasefire amid Peace Talks." Reuters. 25 January 2017. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-rebels-idUSKBN15828C.

[18] Colombiareports. "ELN | Profile." Colombia News | Colombia Reports. 15 April 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://colombiareports.com/eln/.

[19] Murphy, Helen. "Exclusive: Colombian Armed Groups Recruiting Desperate Venezuelans,..." Reuters. 20 June 2019. Web. 19 July 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-colombia-exclusive/exclusive-colombian-armed-groups-recruiting-desperate-venezuelans-army-says-idUSKCN1TL14E.

 

Resources

In the ELN’s formative years, Cuba provided the group with weapons and financial support.[1] In the 1970s, the ELN relied on kidnapping for revenue to rebuild after its near destruction by the Colombian military in 1973. Additionally, the ELN profited from protection payments and ransoms.

The ELN increased kidnappings in the 1980s.[2] Throughout the decade, the ELN secured millions of dollars from German oil contractors through extortion and kidnapping threats.[3] In the 1990s, the ELN also began extorting oil company employees. Together, kidnapping and extortion became the ELN’s primary source of revenue, bringing in $225 million in 1998 alone.[4] In the 1990s, the ELN also started taxing coca and marijuana farmers, especially in the Bolivar Province where it had territorial control.[5] Many units of the ELN reportedly established independent relationships with drug trafficking gangs in order to survive economically.[6] The ELN has continued to kidnap for profit in more recent years, even having publicly refused to stop kidnapping in 2012. [7]

Kidnapping and extortion, although acknowledged under different names, were formal components of the ELN’s economic strategy. In 2000, ELN Commander Antonio Garcia said that the group financed its operations four ways: donations, produce sales, voluntary contributions, and taxation.[8] ELN members, who were mostly working, wage-earning people, provided donations. Professional guerrillas who engaged in community activities grew produce to be sold for profit. Voluntary contributions came from people who were not members of the ELN, but who shared the ELN’s ideas. Additionally, “wealthy individuals were taxed to provide another source of the ELN’s income. People who refused to pay the tax faced “Economic Retention,” a policy that was widely understood to be the kidnapping of wealthy individuals.[9] Reports published in the past decade do not indicate whether the ELN has continued to rely on donations, agricultural sales, and taxation for its funding.

Outside of kidnapping and extortion, the ELN has engaged in illegal mining activities in both Colombia and Venezuela. The ELN made an estimated 10 billion Colombian pesos throughout 2016-2018 by forcing illegal miners to turn over 10%-20% of their earnings to the ELN.[10] The ELN has retained a presence in Venezuela since the 1990s, and the group’s territory has expanded significantly since 2000. In particular, ELN-held areas have grown at an increasingly faster rate since 2017. As the ELN has expanded further into Venezuela, it has made money from illegally mining gold throughout the country.[11] In areas along the Colombian-Venezuelan border, the ELN has capitalized on refugees and displaced people who are fleeing internal Venezuelan conflict, as well as poor indigenous populations and at-risk youth. The group has drawn upon these populations to serve as a work force in its mines.[12] In a 2018 interview, an ex-commander of the ELN revealed that the group earns approximately 60% of its total income from illegal gold mining in Colombia and Venezuela.[13]


[1] Offstein, Norman. “An Historical Review and Analysis of Colombian Guerrilla Movements: FARC, ELN and EPL.” Desarrollo y Sociedad. N.p. September 2003. Web. 31 July 2015. https://economia.uniandes.edu.co/images/archivos/pdfs/Articulos_Revista_Desarrollo_y_Sociedad/Articulo52_4.pdf

[2] Molinski, Dan. “Colombian Rebel Group Steps Up Violence.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 15 January 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323596204578241902662204058

[3] García-Peña, Daniel. “The ELN Creates a Different Peace Process.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 November 2000. Web. 27 July 2016. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia41.htm; Hanson, Stephanie. “FARC, ELN: Colombia’s Left-Wing Guerrillas.” Council on Foreign Relations. The Washington Post. 12 March 2008. Web. 10 August 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/12/AR2008031202036.html

[4] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218

[5] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[6] “Colombian rebels seek FARC truce.” BBC News. BBC. 24 May 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8066191.stm

[7] García-Peña, Daniel. “The ELN Creates a Different Peace Process.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 November 2000. Web. 27 July 2016. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia41.htm; Hanson, Stephanie. “FARC, ELN: Colombia’s Left-Wing Guerrillas.” Council on Foreign Relations. The Washington Post. 12 March 2008. Web. 10 August 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/12/AR2008031202036.html

[8] Craig-Best, Liam. “Interview with ELN Commander Antonio García.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 August 2000. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.lukemastin.com/testing/colombiapeace/documents_2000_1.html

[9] Craig-Best, Liam. “Interview with ELN Commander Antonio García.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 August 2000. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.lukemastin.com/testing/colombiapeace/documents_2000_1.html

[10] "Capturados Los 'reyes Del Oro', Primos De Carlos Castaño Que Con Minería Ilegal Contaminaron 5 Ríos." Noticias Caracol. 20 March 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://noticias.caracoltv.com/colombia/capturados-los-reyes-del-oro-primos-de-carlos-castano-que-con-mineria-ilegal-contaminaron-5-rios

[11] "Mining Massacre Signals ELN Expansion Into Venezuela." InSight Crime. 19 October 2018. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/mining-massacre-signals-eln-expansion-venezuela/. ; "ELN in Venezuela." InSight Crime. 11 March 2019. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/venezuela-organized-crime-news/eln-in-venezuela/.

[12] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[13] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

The ELN claims to operate in areas of Colombia that are stateless (i.e., areas that receive no government attention or assistance). The ELN had its headquarters in the Bolivar province until 2000, when the AUC seized ELN territory.[1] The group is most present in the Northeast region of Colombia, where there are many oil fields and mining operations.[2] As of July 2019, the ELN reportedly had operations in 9 out of 32 of Colombia’s departments.[3] Since the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the ELN has moved into some of the FARC’s former territory in order to control a higher area of cocaine production and trafficking.[4]

The ELN is a transnational organization, and it has been active in Venezuela since 1990.[5] As of June 2019, the ELN had around 45% of their forces stationed in Venezuela, and it had operations in at least 13 of the 24 states in Venezuela.[6] Although the ELN does not have fronts based in Venezuela as it does in Colombia, it has an extensive presence in the countryside and control of illegal operations throughout the country.[7] Through its expanding gold mining operations, the ELN has been pushing its influence eastward across Venezuela toward the Venezuelan-Guyanese border.[8]


[1] Craig-Best, Liam. “Interview with ELN Commander Antonio García.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 August 2000. Web. 23 July 2015. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia25.htm; “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[2] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[3] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[4] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[5] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-....

[6]  Colombiareports. "Almost Half of ELN's Forces Are in Venezuela, Colombia's Military Claims." Colombia News | Colombia Reports. 09 May 2019. Web. 08 July 2019. https://colombiareports.com/almost-half-of-elns-forces-are-in-venezuela-colombias-military-claims/. ; "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[7] "ELN in Venezuela." InSight Crime. 11 March 2019. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/venezuela-organized-crime-news/eln-in-venezuela/.

[8] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

  • Catholic Liberation Theology
  • Marxist-Leninist

The ELN began as a movement of students and Catholics, predominately radical priests, inspired by the Cuban Revolution.[1] These individuals believed they represented the majority of Colombians: individuals with economic, political, and social grievances fueled by exclusion by the state.[2] Additionally, the group sought to combat foreign influence in Colombia, and it initially aimed to institute a popular democracy in place of the Colombian government, which was a republic.[3]

Originally, the group did not engage in kidnapping and drug trafficking. The ELN believed that kidnapping was anti-revolutionary, and ELN leader Priest Manuel Perez vehemently opposed entering the drug trade for ideological reasons.

Since the mid-1970s, the ELN has been involved in illegal activities and thus has appeared to be less ideologically driven as a militant group.[4] Under ELN leader Gabino, the ELN has been involved with kidnappings, the drug trade, and extortion.[5] The ELN also has illegally mined gold throughout both Colombia and Venezuela, a trade that has generated significant income for the group.[6]

Following the peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government in 2016, the ELN began to shift its overall goal to focus on demobilization and reintegration. In May 2019, ELN commander Pablo Beltrán stated that the ELN’s goal is to end its conflict with the Colombian government and, in return, to assure protections and assistance for the poor throughout the country.[7]



[1] “Colombia’s ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail.”  Voice of America News. N.p. 24 April 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-colombia-eln-rebels-say-peace-talks-n... “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[2] Craig-Best, Liam. “Interview with ELN Commander Antonio García.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 August 2000. Web. 23 July 2015. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia25.htm

[3] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218

[4] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[5] McDermott, Jeremy. “Colombia’s ELN rebels show new vigour.” BBC. BBC News. 5 November 2009. Web. 23 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8341093.stm; “Peace Talks with the ELN.” Colombia Calls. N.p. 12 January 2015. Web. 3 August 2015. https://vbouvier.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/peace-talks-with-the-eln/

[6] “Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[7] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w....

 

Political Activities

The ELN drafted an agreement for a National Convention with the Colombian government in 1998. The group intended for a National Convention to be a venue for popular participation and collective effort to restructure the country and its institutions for greater social justice.[1] However, the death of ELN leader Manuel Perez in 1998 halted the development of the National Convention. In 2000, planning efforts started again in with the aim of creating an inclusive democratic space wherein participants could reach a national consensus on the issues facing Colombia.[2] The ELN hoped the National Convention would take place in a demilitarized “Zone of Encounter” (ZOE), and address human rights, economic policy, drug trafficking, political participation, natural resources, and the armed forces.[3] In 1999, Pastrana’s government rejected the ELN’s proposal to create a ZOE, and, in response, the ELN launched a kidnapping campaign. The group hijacked and kidnapped an Avianca flight of 46 people in April 1999, as well as kidnapped approximately 140 parishioners attending mass in Cali in May 1999.[4] The ELN’s kidnappings caused the government to suspend negotiations. However, the negotiations were restarted in 2000.[5]

Although the ELN and the government resumed negotiations, the 2000 negotiations ended in 2001 without agreement. Both sides blamed the other for the failure. The ELN broke off negotiations due to the government’s campaign against its coca farms and the military’s alleged relationship with paramilitary organizations. Meanwhile, Pastrana’s government suspended the negotiations because of the ELN’s perceived lack of a will for peace and cooperation.[6] When the peace talks failed in 2001, so did the opportunity to create a ZOE or a National Convention.[7]

With the failure of negotiations with Pastrana’s government in 2001, the ELN adopted a new strategy to achieve its political goals. The group recognized and supported the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), a joint political party of the Independent Democratic Pole and the Democratic Alternative established in 2005, in opposition to the right wing Colombian government. In 2006, the PDA won 18 seats in the Congress of Colombia, 10 in the Senate and 8 in the House of Representatives.[8] Although it was not as successful in 2007, through Samuel Moreno Rojas, the PDA won Bogotá’s mayoral election.[9] Since 2008, internal conflict and polarity has negatively affected the PDA’s growth. In the 2018 election, the PDA only won 5 seats in the Senate, as well as 2 deputies.[10]

Despite the breakdown of negotiations for continued transitional talks between the Pastrana and Uribe administrations and the ELN in 2002, the ELN entered into both informal talks and formal negotiations with the Colombian government throughout the term of President Uribe (2002-2010).[11] In 2002, the two groups began to plan for talks; however, they suspended the informal negotiations in 2003.[12] In 2005, the ELN and Uribe’s government, with the support of outside parties like Mexico and the Catholic Church, began preliminary talks in the hope of later entering into formal negotiations.[13] The goal of these negotiations was not only the disarmament and demobilization the ELN, but also the implementation of political and socio-economic change on the part of the government.[14] In the lead up to the formal negotiations of 2008, Uribe’s government demanded that the ELN stop its kidnapping and military activities in a ceasefire, a condition that the ELN refused to accept.[15] The government also pushed the ELN to declare a ceasefire, an act that the group saw as tantamount to surrender. Without any promises to halt hostilities and kidnapping, the government refused to initiate talks with the ELN, and the negotiations broke down in 2008.[16]

In 2012, the ELN tried to negotiate a position for itself at a peace conference between the government of former President Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).[17] Timochenko, a leader of the FARC, supported the inclusion of the ELN at the peace talks.[18] The ELN and the Colombian government formally entered peace negotiations in 2017. Anticipating Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia in 2017, the ELN proposed a ceasefire in June 2017, to which the Colombian government agreed in September 2017.[19] In October 2017, Santos’ government and the ELN formally entered into the ceasefire, the first between the two.[20]

The ceasefire between the ELN and the Colombian government ended in January 2019, with the change in power from President Santos to President Duque. In 2019, President Duque demanded the halting of kidnapping and release of the ELN’s hostages as a condition for the continuation of the peace talks, which the ELN refused.[21] The Colombian government then suspended the peace talks indefinitely in January 2019, as a response to the ELN’s attack on a police academy in Bogotá.[22] As of June 2019, President Duque has called for the arrest and extradition of the ELN leadership present at the Havana peace talks.[23]



[1] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application...

[2] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application...

[3] Colombian ELN Rebels hope for peace talks in 2000.” CNN. N.p. 8 December 1999. Web. 27 July 2015. http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/colombia/hope.htm ; “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[4] “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[5] “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[6] “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[7] “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[8] Colombiareports. "Alternative Democratic Pole: Profile." Colombia News | Colombia Reports. 29 May 2019. Web. 29 July 2019. https://colombiareports.com/alternative-democratic-pole/.

[9] Colombiareports. "Alternative Democratic Pole: Profile." Colombia News | Colombia Reports. 29 May 2019. Web. 29 July 2019. https://colombiareports.com/alternative-democratic-pole/.

[10] Gomez-Ramirez, Enrique. “2018 Elections in Colombia: A Test for Peace?,” European Parliamentary Research Service, May 2018. Web. 09 July 2019. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2018/621899/EPRS_BRI(2018)621899_EN.pdf

[11] “Colombia: Prospects for Peace with the ELN.” Latin America Report no. 2. International Crisis Group. 4 October 2002. Web. 7 July 2019. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/3de73bfd4.pdf

[12] Ambassador Andrés Valencia Benavides. “The Peace Process in Colombia with the ELN: The Role of Mexico.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. March 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Mexico%2527s%20Role%20in%20the%20ELN%20Peace%20Process.pdf

[13] “Colombia’s Peace Process: Multiple Negotiations, Multiple Actors.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. December 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/lap_colombia1.pdf

[14] “Colombia’s Peace Process: Multiple Negotiations, Multiple Actors.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. December 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/lap_colombia1.pdf

[15] “Colombia’s Peace Process: Multiple Negotiations, Multiple Actors.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. December 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/lap_colombia1.pdf

[16] “Colombia’s Peace Process: Multiple Negotiations, Multiple Actors.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. December 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/lap_colombia1.pdf

[17] “Farc rebels says ELN must join Colombia peace process.” BBC Latin America & Caribbean. BBC News. 13 May 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32731754

[18] “Farc rebels says ELN must join Colombia peace process.” BBC Latin America & Caribbean. BBC News. 13 May 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32731754

[19] "Colombia's ELN Rebels Propose Ceasefire for Pope's Visit." Reuters. June 06, 2017. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-rebels-idUSKBN18W2RC. ; "Colombia's Government Agrees Ceasefire with ELN Rebels." France 24. 04 September 2017. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20170904-colombia-government-ceasefire-eln-rebels-president-juan-manuel-santos-pope-francis.

[20] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia and ELN Rebels Begin First-ever Ceasefire." Reuters. 01 October 2017. Web. 08 July 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-rebels-eln/colombia-and-eln-rebels-begin-first-ever-ceasefire-idUSKCN1C61CT.

[21] “ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[22] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w...

[23] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia Asks Cuba to Capture ELN Leaders after Attack on Police..." Reuters. 19 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-blast/colombia-asks-cuba-to-capture-eln-leaders-after-attack-on-police-academy-idUSKCN1PC1CO

 

Targets and Tactics

During its early years, the ELN avoided engaging in illegal activity for ideological reasons. Following the group’s near destruction in 1973, the ELN shifted tactics and began robbing banks, assassinating military personnel, and kidnapping for ransom. By the 1980s, the ELN had become expert kidnappers. Kidnapping and extortion accounted for the majority of the group’s revenue. Then, in the late 1980s and 1990s, the ELN joined the drug trade.[1]

In the 2000s, the ELN used kidnapping, extortion, bombings, assassinations and hijacking to achieve its objectives.[2] The ELN primarily targeted oil company employees for their wealth and because of their foreign identity.[3] In 2013, the ELN declared war on oil companies for allegedly ‘plundering the country’s natural resources.’ The ELN attacked infrastructure of local towns, including oil pipelines and electricity pylons.[4] In 2014, the ELN engaged in preliminary peace talks with the Colombian government. However, the group refused to stop kidnapping, impeding the start of the talks until 2017.[5]

As of 2019, the ELN has continued to use kidnapping as a tactic.[6] The ELN has continued to target oil companies, as well as police officers. Throughout the 2017-2019 peace talks, the ELN simultaneously carried out attacks while calling for peace and the cessation of military activities.[7]



[1] “ELN INSURGENCY IN COLOMBIA 1966-PRESENT.” ON WAR. N.p. N.d. Web. 12 August 2015. https://www.onwar.com/aced/chrono/c1900s/yr60/fcolombia1966.htm

[2] “Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN).” Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/ejercito-de-liberacion-nacional-eln; “National Liberation Army (ELN)—Colombia.” Encyclopedia.com. N.p. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403300510.html

[3] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218; Wight, Andrew. “ELN declares war on oil companies.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 5 November 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/guerilla-group-declares-war-oil-companies/

[4] “ELN.” InSight Crime. 16 October 2018. Web. 05 July 2019. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile

[5] "ELN." InSight Crime. 16 October 2018. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[6] “ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[7] Charles, Mathew. "'People Are Tired of War, Including Us'-A Rare Interview With Colombia's ELN Commander." World Politics Review. 08 May 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27827/people-are-tired-of-w....

 

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

January 7, 1965: The ELN seized Simacota, a small town in Santander. Following the attack, founder Fabio Vasquéz Castaño, along with Victor Medina Moron, read the ELN’s proclamation that announced their existence as a group (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[1]

October 13, 1998: The ELN’s Jose Antonio Galan Front blew up a pipeline in the Department of Antioquia (45+ killed, 70+ wounded).[2]

April 1999: The ELN hijacked an Avianca flight and forced it to land in a remote area of Colombia. The ELN then took all 43 passengers and crew hostage. Some were released immediately upon landing, but 35 persons were held hostage for over one year (0 killed, unknown wounded).[3]

May 1999: The ELN kidnapped 143-186 persons from a church. Eighty-four were released soon after, and five shortly after that. By September 10, 1999, the ELN had released all remaining hostages. This was the largest kidnapping incident in Colombian history (0 killed, unknown wounded).[4]

June 2011: An ELN member drove a car filled with explosives into Popayan in the province of Cauca. The bomb exploded before police could clear the surrounding area (1 killed, 16 wounded).[5]

Summer 2013: The ELN kidnapped a Canadian mining official, Gernot Wober, and held him for ransom. The ELN then released Wober to the Colombian government in exchange for entering preliminary peace negotiations (0 killed, 0 wounded).[6]

January 2014: The ELN blew up four crude oil holding pools in North Santander. The fires created by the explosion forced residents to flee their homes (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[7]

June-July 2014: The ELN successfully attacked 10 different pieces of energy infrastructure, including wells, pipelines, and mines in Colombia. The attacks were part of the ELN’s war on oil companies. They were also speculated to be an effort by the ELN to gain the Colombian government’s attention and secure a role in ongoing peace negotiations (unknown killed, unknown wounded).[8]

December 2014: The ELN kidnapped a Colombian mayor, Fredy Palacios, while he and 16 others were on a boat. The ELN claimed that the mayor was “stealing money from the municipal budget” and would be released following an organized corruption trial. Palacios was released in March 2015 (0 killed, unknown wounded).[9]

July 3, 2015: The ELN set off two explosions in Bogotá, one in the financial district and one in the industrial area (unknown killed, 8+ wounded).[10]

January 9-12, 2018: The ELN carried out at least 14 attacks after the Colombian government failed to extend its ceasefire with the group. In these attacks, the ELN bombed the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline in Colombia and killed members of the Colombian armed forces (3 killed, 2 wounded).[11]

January 28, 2018: The ELN attacked a police academy in Barranquilla. President Santos halted the government’s peace negotiations with the ELN following the attack, and he recalled the government’s delegation from Quito, Ecuador. (5 killed, 40+ wounded)[12]

January 17, 2019: According to Colombian authorities, the ELN set off a car bomb outside General Santander School, a police academy. The attack was the deadliest car bomb since a car bomb that the FARC detonated outside a nightclub in 2003. Authorities claim that ELN weapons expert Jose Aldemar Rojas, who died during the attack, drove the car. Following the attack, Duque reinstated Interpol’s warrants for the ELN delegation at the peace talks in Cuba. The ELN delegation claimed not to have had knowledge of the attack. (21+ killed, 24+ wounded).[13]


[1] Osterling, Jorge P. Democracy In Colombia : Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla Warfare. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989.

[2] Schemo, Diana Jean. "Oil Pipeline Blast and Fire in Colombia Kill 45, Mostly Villagers; Rebels Are Blamed." The New York Times. 19 October 1998. Web. 08 July 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/19/world/oil-pipeline-blast-fire-colombia-kill-45-mostly-villagers-rebels-are-blamed.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=0420DE64A49A27EB33F3863A0DEC7A95&gwt=pay.

[3] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile; “Terror on flight 9463.” The Guardian. N.p. 27 April 1999. Web. 31 July 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/1999/apr/28/features11.g23; Borkan, Brett. “Avianca plan hijacker gets 40 years jail.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 24 June 2010. Web. 12 August 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln-hijacker-of-avianca-flight-gets-40-years-...

[4] “ELN.” InSight Crime. N.p. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile; “Rebel leader apologizes for Colombian church kidnapping.” CNN World. N.p. 7 June 1999. Web. 31 July 2015. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/americas/9906/07/colombia/

[5] McDermott, Jeremy. “ELN rebel group makes a comeback in Colombia.” Christian Science Monitor. N.p. Web. 28 June 2011. Web 30 July 2015. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2011/0628/...

[6] Wight, Andrew. “ELN declares war on oil companies.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 5 November 2013. Web. 29 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/guerilla-group-declares-war-oil-companies/

[7] Volckhausen, Taran. “ELN bomb Colombia oil pipeline infrastructure. COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 2 January 2014. Web. 29 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln-bomb-oil-pipeline-infrastructure/

[8] Bencosme, Melanie. “’ELN attacking energy infrastructures to pressure Colombia govt into peace talks’: report” COLOMBIA REPORTS. N.p. 28 July 2014. Web. 30 July 2015. http://colombiareports.com/eln-targets-energy-infrastructures-gain-lever...

[9] Alsema, Adriaan. “ELN confirms holding west Colombia mayor hostage.” COLOMBIA REPORTS. WORLD AFFAIRS. 10 February 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/content/eln-rebel-group-kidnaps-colombian-mayor; “ELN Rebels Admit Kidnap of Colombian Mayor.” PanAM Post. N.p. 10 February 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.

[10] Gallagher, Kevin and Mesa, Edwin. “Colombian President blames ELN for blasts that injured eight.” CNN. N.p. 3 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.  http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/americas/colombia-bogota-explosions/

[11] "Blu Radio Señal En Vivo: Noticias De Colombia Y El Mundo." Blu Radio Señal En Vivo | Noticias De Colombia Y El Mundo. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.bluradio.com/nacion/ya-son-12-los-ataques-del-eln-desde-fin-del-cese-bilateral-dice-mindefensa-165639. ; "Colombia's Lesser Known Rebel Group Still Delivers Violence and Wreaks Havoc." Los Angeles Times. 17 January 2019. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-colombia-rebel-violence-20190117-story.html.

[12] Cobb, Julia Symmes. "Colombia Suspends Peace Talks with ELN Rebels after Bomb Attacks." Reuters. January 29, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-rebels/colombia-suspends-pea....

[13] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia Asks Cuba to Capture ELN Leaders after Attack on Police..." Reuters. 19 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-blast/colombia-asks-cuba-to-capture-eln-leaders-after-attack-on-police-academy-idUSKCN1PC1CO.;

Rp, TeleSUR /. "Colombia Issues Arrest Orders Against ELN's Central Command." News | TeleSUR English. 26 January 2019. Web. 09 July 2019. https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Colombia-Issues-Arrest-Orders-Against-ELNs-Central-Command-20190126-0014.html.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

The ELN is listed on the following:

  • United States Foreign Terrorist Organizations List: 1997 to Present[1]
  • European Union’s Common Position 2001/931/CFSP: 2002 to Present[2]

[1] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.”  Bureau of Counterterrorism. U.S. Department of State. N.d. Web. 22 July 2019. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

[2]  Bouvier, Virginia Marie. Colombia : Building Peace In a Time of War. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2009; “Colombia’s ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail.”  Voice of America News. N.p. 24 April 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-colombia-eln-rebels-say-peace-talks-n... Molinski, Dan. “Colombian Rebel Group Steps Up Violence.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 15 January 2013. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323596204578241902662204058; “Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/25 of 8 January 2019.” Official Journal of the European Union. 1 September 2019. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32019D0025&from=EN

 

Community Relations

In the 1990s and the early 2000s, the ELN stressed the value of community involvement. The first set of negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government started in 1991. In 1998, the ELN pushed for a National Convention, which would serve a venue for popular participation to tackle social issues. The ELN met with members of civil society to sign an agreement focusing on humanitarian issues.[1]

Though the ELN aimed to improve civilians’ lives by addressing social issues and encouraging civil involvement, its use of violence was highly controversial. In 1999, over 13 million Colombians marched in the No Más protests in 15 cities calling for peace and demanding a cease-fire between rebel groups, including the ELN, and the Colombian government.[2] The protests served as an illustration of the Colombian people’s dissatisfaction with guerrilla violence. Additionally, support for President Álvaro Uribe throughout his presidency (2002-2010) was an indication of Colombia’s negative sentiments about guerrilla activity in the country. Uribe’s crackdown on leftist guerrillas in Colombia increased his approval rating to 82%, symbolizing the Colombian public’s disapproval of guerrilla activity and organizations, including the ELN.[3]

The ELN damaged its relationship with the Colombian community further through its January 17, 2019 attack on a Colombian police academy. The attack was highly condemned throughout Colombia, and there were widespread protests against the ELN and other guerrilla movements in response.[4]

The ELN’s community involvement is not limited to its engagement with the Colombian populace. As the ELN has spread to other countries, like Venezuela, it has had to form relationships with the local populations. As of June 2019, the ELN has been providing social services, like food programs and infrastructure development programs, to local populations in Venezuela.[5] In return, the ELN has hoped to gain local support and workers for its illegal gold mines.[6]


[1] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/6fbc91d2529b493119d3d26a1be9b6e6.pdf

[2] “World: America’s Millions march for Colombia peace.” BBC ONLINE NETWORK. BBC News. 25 October 1999. Web. 29 July 2015. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/484391.stm

[3] Bronstein, Hugh. “Popularity of Colombia’s Uribe hits record high.” REUTERS. N.p. 13 May 2008. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/03/13/us-colombia-uribe-idUSN1329827...

[4] "Colombia Protest: Thousands March for Peace after Cadet Killings." BBC News. 20 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46940593.

[5] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[6] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

 

Relationships with Other Groups

The ELN has had mixed relationships with several groups. The ELN has been both rivals and allies with the April 19 Movement (M-19), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the People’s Liberation Army (EPL). Between 1987 and 1992, the ELN participated in the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinating Board (CGSB), an umbrella organization that originally included the M-19, the EPL, the ELN, and the FARC.[1] The CGSB was an ELN initiative, created in 1987, following the ELN’s refusal to join peace talks of 1984.[2] By 1991, the FARC and the ELN were the last remaining members of the CGSB as all of the other groups had demobilized and signed peace agreements with the Colombian government. The CGSB dissolved in 1992 after failed talks between the FARC, the ELN, and the Colombian government.[3]

Since 2008 and until the FARC’s demobilization in 2016, the ELN frequently cooperated with the FARC. In May 2008, the ELN sent a letter to the FARC’s Secretariat, a governing council of the group’s seven highest leaders, expressing its interest in cooperating.[4] The ELN’s choice to continue fighting amidst a hiatus in the 2008 peace talks prompted its decision to reach out to the FARC. The ELN was motivated to collaborate with the FARC because it believed that the two groups had common enemies: the Colombian state and paramilitaries.[5] When the 2012 peace talks began, they excluded the ELN. In response, the FARC’s chief commander, Timochenko, released a statement on the FARC’s website in May 2015 calling for the inclusion of the ELN in the negotiations. Timochenko said the ELN’s involvement was “necessary and urgent for the government and for the Colombian people.”[6]

According to Colombian political publication La Silla, the ELN has been coordinating drug trafficking operations with ex-FARC dissidents (i.e., those FARC members who have refused to demobilize and accept the peace deal).[7] The ELN has been working with the 1st Front and the 33rd Front of the ex-FARC dissidents. The ELN and the dissidents met in Venezuela in 2019, with top leaders allegedly attending the meeting.[8] Analysts speculate that they have agreed to a non-aggression pact after years of competition in the Arauca region of Colombia.[9]

In addition to coordinating with ex-FARC dissidents, the ELN also has been recruiting these former FARC members.[10] Since the FARC’s peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, the ELN has grown by 1,000 combatants, many of whom were FARC members who refused to disarm and demobilize.[11]

The ELN has turned to other partners in the drug trade, beyond former FARC members, since the FARC’s demobilization in 2016. Beginning in 2016-2017, the ELN has been collaborating with drug cartels, like Los Rastrojos, in order to maintain its income from illegal drug trafficking.[12] The ELN has also been both cooperating and competing with Los Urabeños, a paramilitary group in Colombia that engages in drug trafficking. From February to March 2019, clashes between the ELN and Los Urabeños forced the confinement of approximately 2800 people in Bojayá, a city along two major drug trafficking routes in northern Colombia.[13]

With its increasing presence in Venezuela, the ELN has been in greater contact with local Venezuelan groups. The ELN’s growing presence in the Venezuelan illegal gold mining industry has created competition with sindicatos, or Venezuelan gangs.[14] The ELN has pushed the sindicatos from their former mining territories, as well as taxed and bought the gold produced under the groups.[15] The ELN therefore has both cooperative and competitive relationships with the Venezuelan sindicatos.[16]

Although the ELN has faced some competition from sindicatos, it has cooperated with Venezuelan colectivos, or the paramilitary groups that support Maduro’s regime.[17] The ELN and members of colectivos have engaged in militant operations together, such as their attack on a demonstration hosting self-declared President Juan Guaido in January 2019.[18] The colectivos and the ELN have also been threatening aid shipments along the Colombian-Venezuelan border.[19]

 


[1] “National Liberation Army (Colombia).” Terrorist Organization Profile. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism – University of Maryland. N.d. Web. 23 July 2015. http://www.start.umd.edu/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=218

[2] García-Peña, Daniel. “The ELN Creates a Different Peace Process.” Colombia Journal. N.p. 27 November 2000. Web. 27 July 2016. http://colombiajournal.org/colombia41.htm

[3] Garcia-Pena, Daniel. "The National Liberation Army (ELN) Creates a Different Peace Proces." NACLA. 25 September 2007. Web. 09 July 2019. https://nacla.org/article/national-liberation-army-eln-creates-different-peace-process.

[4] Goerzig, Carolin. Talking to Terrorists : Concessions and the Renunciation of Violence. London: Routledge, 2010.

[5] Goerzig, Carolin. Talking to Terrorists : Concessions and the Renunciation of Violence. London: Routledge, 2010.

[6] “Farc rebels says ELN must join Colombia peace process.” BBC Latin America & Caribbean. BBC News. 13 May 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32731754

[7]  "El ELN Y Las Disidencias Están Coordinadas." La Silla Vacía. Web. 16 July 2019. https://lasillavacia.com/el-eln-y-las-disidencias-estan-coordinadas-69119.

[8]  "El ELN Y Las Disidencias Están Coordinadas." La Silla Vacía. Web. 16 July 2019. https://lasillavacia.com/el-eln-y-las-disidencias-estan-coordinadas-69119

[9]  "El ELN Y Las Disidencias Están Coordinadas." La Silla Vacía. Web. 16 July 2019. https://lasillavacia.com/el-eln-y-las-disidencias-estan-coordinadas-69119

[10] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/; "Colombia's Lesser Known Rebel Group Still Delivers Violence and Wreaks Havoc." Los Angeles Times. 17 January 2019. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-colombia-rebel-violence-20190117-story.html

[11] "Colombia's Lesser Known Rebel Group Still Delivers Violence and Wreaks Havoc." Los Angeles Times. 17 January 2019. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-colombia-rebel-violence-20190117-story.html

[12] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 01 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[13] "ELN-Urabeños Clashes Leave Thousands Trapped in Bojayá, Colombia." InSight Crime. 10 May 2019. Web. 30 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/eln-urabenos-dispute-intensifies-over-control-of-bojaya-colombia/.

[14] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[15] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[16] "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south.

[17] "#Boletin011: COLECTIVOS ARMADOS TRASLADARON SU VIOLENCIA A POBLACIONES VENEZOLANAS EN FRONTERA CON COLOMBIA." ONG Fundaredes |. 16 May 2019. Web. 15 July 2019. https://www.fundaredes.org/2019/05/09/boletin011-colectivos-armados-trasladaron-su-violencia-a-poblaciones-venezolanas-en-frontera-con-colombia/.

[18] "#Boletin011: COLECTIVOS ARMADOS TRASLADARON SU VIOLENCIA A POBLACIONES VENEZOLANAS EN FRONTERA CON COLOMBIA." ONG Fundaredes |. 16 May 2019. Web. 15 July 2019. https://www.fundaredes.org/2019/05/09/boletin011-colectivos-armados-trasladaron-su-violencia-a-poblaciones-venezolanas-en-frontera-con-colombia/.

[19] "Guerrilla-Trained 'Colectivo' Threatens Humanitarian Aid to Venezuela." InSight Crime. 01 March 2019. Web 18 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/guerrilla-trained-colectivo-threatens-humanitarian-aid-venezuela/.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

The Catholic Church has influenced the ELN since the ELN’s creation in 1964. In its founding ideology, the ELN subscribed to Catholic Liberation Theology, a doctrine that combines Marxism with Jesus’ focus on the poor and the oppressed to stress the needs of those communities and of social and political action in the world.[1] Although the ideology and actions of the ELN have changed over the group’s lifetime, the ELN remains influenced by the Catholic Church. The ELN has historically called upon the Catholic Church to help it negotiate with the Colombian government. During the ELN’s on and off talks with President Uribe’s government from 2002-2008, the Catholic Church acted as a guarantor.[2] In 2015, the ELN asked the Catholic Church in Colombia to help it negotiate a ceasefire with the Colombian government.[3] In 2017, the ELN initiated a ceasefire in anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia.[4] The Catholic Church has continued to act as a monitoring mechanism for ceasefires and negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government.[5]                       

Cuba has supported the ELN both financially and politically. During the ELN’s early years, Cuba supported the group financially by providing weapons to ELN militants.[6] However, Cuba stopped providing weapons and training to the ELN in 1991.[7] More recently, Cuba has supported the ELN politically. Cuba hosted peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government from 2017-2019. As of June 2019, Cuba has been protecting the ELN’s peace delegation from arrest and extradition to Colombia.[8]

The government of Ecuador has supported negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government. Ecuador hosted peace talks between the ELN and Duque’s government in 2016.[9] However, the Ecuadorian government decided to stop hosting the peace talks in 2018 due to security concerns after the ELN held hostage and killed three Ecuadorian journalists. Consequently, the talks moved from Quito, Ecuador to Havana, Cuba.[10]

The ELN also has an extensive political history with the Venezuelan government. During the peace talks with the Colombian government in the mid-2000s, the ELN received support and assistance from former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In January 2008, Chavez publically declared the ELN, along with the FARC, to be “insurgent forces that have political protection” as opposed to their common designation as terrorist organizations.[11] In response, the ELN thanked the Venezuelan government for its recognition and legitimization of the ELN’s political motivations.[12] More recently, in February 2019, the ELN promised to defend Maduro’s government from a U.S. military intervention and to protect Venezuela in the case of an American invasion.[13] Mirroring concerns about the ELN’s relationship with Maduro’s government, Venezuelan lawmakers have worried about an alleged relationship between the ELN and the Venezuelan armed forces, the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). Although the ELN and the GNB have acted as unofficial allies since Chavez’s government, there were clashes between the two groups in 2018.[14]

Analysts are concerned about the ELN’s external relations transforming into a larger conflict. In particular, analysts speculate that the ELN’s operations along the Colombian-Venezuelan border could generate tensions between Venezuela and Colombia, countries that have been historically hostile with each other. Experts worry that Colombian counterinsurgency operations against the ELN in the Colombian-Venezuelan border region may escalate into an interstate conflict between Colombia and Venezuela, as Venezuela might perceive them as an invasion of its territory.[15]



[1] "What Is Liberation Theology?" USCatholic.org. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201410/what-liberation-theology-29433.

[2] “Colombia’s Peace Process: Multiple Negotiations, Multiple Actors.” Latin American Program Special Report, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. December 2016. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/lap_colombia1.pdf

[3] "ELN Asks Catholic Church to Mediate Cease-fire with Colombian Gov't." San Diego Union-Tribune En Español. 02 November 2015. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/sdhoy-eln-asks-catholic-church-to-mediate-cease-fire-2015nov02-story.html.

[4] "Colombia's ELN Rebels Propose Ceasefire for Pope's Visit." Reuters. June 06, 2017. Web. 17 July 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-rebels-idUSKBN18W2RC

[5] "Security Council Extends Verification Mission in Colombia to Include Monitoring of Ceasefire Agreement, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2381 (2017) | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases." United Nations. 05 October 2017. Web. 24 July 2019. https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc13017.doc.htm.  

[6] Offstein, Norman. “An Historical Review and Analysis of Colombian Guerrilla Movements: FARC, ELN and EPL.” Desarrollo y Sociedad. N.p. September 2003. Web. 31 July 2015. https://economia.uniandes.edu.co/images/archivos/pdfs/Articulos_Revista_...

[7] "State Sponsors: Cuba." Council on Foreign Relations. 23 March 2010. Web. 19 July 2019. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/state-sponsors-cuba.

[8] Murphy, Helen. "Colombia Asks Cuba to Capture ELN Leaders after Attack on Police..." Reuters. 19 January 2019. Web. 28 June 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-blast/colombia-asks-cuba-to-capture-eln-leaders-after-attack-on-police-academy-idUSKCN1PC1CO.    

[9] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[10] "ELN." InSight Crime. 10 January 2019. Web. 05 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news/eln-profile/.

[11] Dinero. Chávez Niega Que Las FARC Y El ELN Sean Terroristas. 15 October 2009. Web. 19 July 2019. https://www.dinero.com/actualidad/noticias/articulo/chavez-niega-farc-eln-sean-terroristas/56369.

[12] Armengol, Vinceç Fisas. “A possible peace process with the ELN in Colombia.” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. N.p. August 2013. Web. http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application...

[13] Charles, Mathew. "ELN Interview: Colombian Marxist Guerrillas 'will Fight' US Troops If They Invade Venezuela." The Telegraph. 02 February 2019. Web, 02 July 2019. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/02/eln-interview-colombian-marx....

[14] "ELN in Venezuela." InSight Crime. 11 March 2019. Web. 25 July 2019. https://www.insightcrime.org/venezuela-organized-crime-news/eln-in-venezuela/

[15]  "Gold and Grief in Venezuela's Violent South." Crisis Group. 28 February 2019. Web. 02 July 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-....

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.