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ELN rebel group denies ceasefire with Colombian government

The National Liberation Army (ELN), says it is not part of a ceasefire with the goverment that had been announced by the Presidient last week.

On New Year’s Eve, President Gustavo Petro made a bold pronouncement on Twitter: Five of the country’s illegal armed groups had agreed to a six-month ceasefire.

“Total peace will be a reality,” Petro wrote, echoing his promises to bring the country’s decades-long armed conflict to an end.

But on Tuesday, the ELN issued a statement refuting claims that it had agreed to the ceasefire.

“The ELN Dialogue Delegation has not discussed any proposal for a bilateral ceasefire with the government of Gustavo Petro,” the ELN wrote in a press release. “Therefore, no such agreement exists.”

The ELN was founded by far-left priests in 1964 and grew to 2,400 to 4,000 members. It has financed its operations through drug trafficking, illegal mining and other elicit activities, expanding into territory formerly controlled by FARC.

Petro — a former rebel fighter who turned to politics, becoming a senator and mayor of the capital, Bogota — promised to bring “total peace” to Colombia when he was sworn in as the country’s first left-wing president in August.

Conflict has gripped the country since the 1960s with the government, leftist guerrilla groups and far-right paramilitary forces all vying for power. Colombia’s Truth Commission estimates that more than 450,664 people have been killed in the six decades of fighting.

The ELN and government representatives met in Venezuela in November to try to end the conflict. Countries including Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Cuba and Norway had also been invited to participate as “guarantors”, helping to oversee the talks and ensure that any commitments are observed.

Read more at Al Jazeera

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