National Liberation Army (ELN)—Colombia
The National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia is a Marxist insurgent group formed in 1965 by urban intellectuals inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. ELN began a dialogue with Colombian officials in 1999 following a campaign of mass kidnappings—each involving at least one U.S. citizen—to demonstrate its strength and continuing viability and force the Pastrana administration to negotiate. Peace talks between Bogota and the ELN started in 1999 and continued sporadically through 2001 until Bogota broke them off. Negotiations ultimately resumed in Havana, Cuba, by the end of 2001.
Organization activities. The ELN uses kidnapping, hijacking, bombing, extortion, and guerrilla war. ELN boasts a modest conventional military capability. ELN annually conducts hundreds of kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreign employees of large corporations, especially in the petroleum industry. ELN attacks frequently target energy infrastructure and the group has inflicted major damage on pipelines and the electric distribution network.
ELN has an estiamted 3,000 to 5,000 armed combatants and an unknown number of active supporters. The ELN is active mostly in rural and mountainous areas of north, northeast, and southwest Colombia, and Venezuela border regions. Cuba provides ELN fighters some medical care and offers political consultation to its leadership.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Annual Report: On the Record Briefing. May 21, 2002. < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17, 2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual Reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).