(Bogotá) The military forces of Colombia and Venezuela are now “allied” against the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas which operate on both sides of the border, Colombian President Gustavo Petro said on Friday.
Although the ELN has been in peace talks with the Colombian government since November, clashes between the rebels and the Colombian security forces continue in the Guevara guerrilla strongholds.
The guerrillas, which will celebrate 60 years of armed insurrection next year, refused to participate in a bilateral truce proposed by Gustavo Petro on New Year’s Day. “In this context, there is a military confrontation that now has a new ingredient: the military forces of Venezuela are acting in alliance with the Colombian government, with its army, taking a space that the ELN previously had very free,” said declared the president to the weekly Semana.
After years of intense tension between the two countries, President Petro, elected in the summer of 2022 as the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia, has renewed relations between the two neighbors.
His predecessor, the conservative Ivan Duque (2018-2022), severed diplomatic ties in 2019 to push for the ousting of President Nicolas Maduro from power and in support of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
He also constantly denounced Venezuela’s support for the ELN and other guerrillas, such as the FARC dissidents who rejected the peace agreement signed in 2016 with this Marxist guerrilla.
President Petro calls for a negotiated solution to the political crisis in Venezuela. Next week, Bogota will host an international conference aimed at easing tensions between Chavista power and its opposition.
According to Colombian intelligence services and independent studies, ELN members move freely between the two countries, particularly in the Colombian departments of Norte de Santander and Arauca and in the Venezuelan states of Zulia and Tachira. They engage in cocaine trafficking and the exploitation of illegal mines.
After an ELN attack that killed nine Colombian soldiers on March 29, President Petro considers it essential to reach a truce with the guerrillas. Peace talks began in Caracas, moved to Mexico City and will resume in Havana in early May.