Colombia’s largest rebel group to stop attacks on military in advance of cease-fire

Colombian President Gustavo Petro shaking hands with rebel leader as another man applauds
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel applauds as Colombian President Gustavo Petro, left, and ELN commander Antonio Garcia shake hands.
(Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press)
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Colombia’s largest rebel group said it will stop attacks on the nation’s military as it prepares for a cease-fire with the government that could bring both sides closer to ending five decades of war.

In a statement published Tuesday, the National Liberation Army’s Central Command ordered its units across the country to “cease all offensive actions” against the military, including espionage, starting Thursday.

However, the group, known as the ELN, said its fighters would continue to use their weapons to defend themselves from any attack by the military or other armed groups that operate in Colombia’s rural areas.


In June, the ELN and Colombia’s government agreed to take actions that will lead to a bilateral cease-fire on Aug. 3.

The cease-fire is supposed to last six months, to facilitate peace talks that began at the end of last year and to last at least until 2025.

The ELN has grown significantly since 2017, when it occupied areas of the country that were vacated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, following its peace deal with the government. The FARC had been Colombia’s biggest guerrilla army.

The meeting on immigration, drugs and Venezuela was emblematic of the ideological balancing act the United States tries to navigate in its dealings with Colombia.

April 20, 2023

Today the ELN has an estimated 4,000 fighters who are active in Colombia’s Choco region and along the nation’s borders with Venezuela and Ecuador.

Humanitarian organizations have recently pointed out that, as the ELN and other armed groups such as the Gulf Clan fight over territory, thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.

According to a United Nations report published in June, Colombia registered 214,000 internally displaced people in 2022.