Colombia's National Liberation Army declares ceasefire for elections

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

The National Liberation Army (ELN), a rebel group in Colombia, has agreed to a truce for the upcoming congressional elections after attending government-sponsored peace talks, held in Cuba beginning in December. ELN representative Antonio Garcia says that the group wants Colombians to be able to vote undisturbed on March 12. According to Reuters, in some previous elections the ELN has attacked security personnel and kidnapped international observers. Some human rights groups are concerned that paramilitary groups might try to influence the vote with intimidation.

The ELN is the second largest rebel group in Colombia. The larger, FARC, shares with ELN their Marxist ideology, but has continued attacks. Some analysts suggest that ELN is losing its will to fight and military capacity, while the FARC is still large. ELN has been damaged by illegal paramilitary groups, and the Colombian army. According to military officials, ELN still has around 5,000 fighters.

Following elections, there plans for further peace talks in Cuba in April. Garcia has said, "The ELN ... expresses its desire for peace and ... will not realize a single military action that could affect election day March 12." Currently Garcia has not announced a truce for the presidential election on May 28. One of their major concerns is to get recognition as a political organization, rather than as a terrorist group.

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