Colombia accuses ELN rebels of breaking preliminary peace deal

The neglected area of the Choco department continues to feel the impact of violence wrought by the guerrillas even after successful disarmament of another rebel group, the FARC.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The National Liberation Army's (ELN) primary income source is drug trafficking, a shift from the ransom or "protection" payments that accounted for its funding in the 1980s, and the kidnappings in the 1990s, according to the UN.

Updated Feb 20, 2017

The Colombian government has accused the National Liberation Army or ELN rebels of carrying out acts of terrorism, just hours after the two sides reached a preliminary deal in peace talks that started on February 7.

It took Colombia over 50 years of fighting to negotiate a successful peace deal with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).This transition reached a milestone on February 18 when the last of the fighters moved into demobilisation zones where the historic disarmament process will be completed. 

However, Colombia still has to reckon with the armed ELN, a left-wing group formed in the 60s. The government says the group has not only kidnapped a politician's father but has also blown up an oil pipeline. 

The US State Department and the European Union have listed the ELN as a terrorist organisation, because of its reputation for ransom kidnappings and attacks on Colombia's infrastructure.

The hostility is putting more pressure on civilians as the ELN's primary source of income is taxation of businesses and middle-class civilians in its areas of operation. To enforce these "taxes," they frequently take civilians hostage.

For generations, tribes have lived by the riverbank in Choco department in western Colombia but over 50 years of conflict in the country has ripped rural communities apart.

TRT World's Soraya Lennie talks to the officials and people affected by the conflict.

TRTWorld and agencies