A bilateral cease-fire agreement reached earlier in September between Colombia’s government and the country’s last active guerilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) takes effect Sunday.
The head of the ELN, Nicolas Rodriguez, alias Gabino, in a rare video posted online Friday, was shown ordering rebels to stand down ahead of the cease-fire commencing date.
“Today, Sept. 20th, I’m ordering all the troops across the entire length of the country to stop all offensive actions to faithfully honor the bilateral cease-fire that has been negotiated between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army and which will take force October 1st at zero hours (midnight) until Jan. 9th, 2018, at zero hours (midnight).”
Sitting before a laptop computer and speaking into a guerrilla field radio with several armed and masked rebels nearby, Rodriguez expressed confidence that about 1,500 rebels belonging to ELN would obey orders not to attack government troops or take other offensive actions banned by the cease-fire.
Also Friday, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree ordering troops not to attack the ELN rebels once the temporary cease-fire takes effect.
Santos said this would be the first bilateral truce the ELN has signed in the history of its Cuban-inspired insurgency.
“As Pope Francis has urged, we must never stop pursuing peace,” Santos said.
The cease-fire will initially last until Jan. 9, after which it can be renewed by mutual consent.
As part of the agreement, the ELN has pledged to stop kidnapping, recruiting minors, planting land mines and attacking Colombian infrastructure.
The government in turn is bound to improve conditions for jailed rebels and increase protections for leftist activists in areas dominated by the ELN.
The truce is to be monitored by observers from the United Nations, assisted by the Roman Catholic Church.
The ELN is considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.