It was a kill they had attempted several times without success. But in the early hours of this Tuesday, March 29, the ELN achieved its goal. It took the lives of nine Colombian soldiers and injured another eighteen, some seriously.
The attack happened at 3 in the morning in the rural sector of the municipality of El Carmen, in the Catatumbo region, one of the traditional strongholds of the guerrilla. The victims belonged to the Special Energy and Road Battalion No. 10, dedicated to providing security to the residents and the Caño Limón oil pipeline, which suffers constant attacks by said guerrillas.
According to the first reports, they were attacked with homemade explosives and did not have time to react.
It should be noted that the ELN is negotiating with the government a peace process similar to the one that Juan Manuel Santos sealed with the FARC. And that they insist that theirs is a political struggle for the people and social justice, even though the current President belonged to the M19 guerrilla and the ELN delegates themselves at the negotiating table acknowledge their closeness to the extreme left movement of Gustavo Petro. This newspaper also learned at the time that the aforementioned criminal gang supported him and in some cases forced the peasants to vote for Petro in the last elections.
Despite the fact that Petro announced on Twitter on December 31 that he had agreed to a ceasefire with the ELN, the armed organization denied it and left that possibility to include it as one more item on the agenda of its peace process. Its top leader, alias Antonio García, a refugee in Venezuela, has also reiterated that laying down weapons is not a priority.
After the attack, President Petro called his negotiating delegation for consultations. "A peace process must be serious and responsible with Colombian society," said the Head of State. But it does not seem that he is going to suspend the dialogues, unlike what happened two weeks ago with the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, heir to the paramilitaries. He broke a "cessation of hostilities" for supporting a violent strike by miners in the Bajo Cauca region of the Antioquia department
The Military Forces, for their part, described the massacre as a "criminal action" and as a "serious violation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. We maintain military operations in the area against those responsible."
Catatumbo, a large area in the Norte de Santander department, northeast of Colombia and on the border with Venezuela, has always been a bastion of the guerrillas and one of the main coca producers in the country.
The ELN has waged different wars against the EPL and the FARC for control of drug trafficking, although they disguise it as political motives. They have the advantage of having the neighboring country as a sanctuary, as well as being a close ally of Chavismo, according to military sources.
Near where the bloody attack took place, there is an important cocaine trafficking corridor.
Of the deceased, two were non-commissioned officers and six were serving in the military.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project