Peace talks between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrilla group (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) are set to resume, according to President Juan Manuel Santos. The talks had been suspended in late January following a series of attacks carried out by the ELN, and high levels of violence have continued in recent weeks (19 members of security forces and 34 rebels killed since mid-January, in addition to numerous anti-infrastructure attacks). It remains unclear when the talks would actually begin, but a government negotiator is reportedly already en route to Quito (Ecuador), where the talks are being held.
Regardless, continued attacks by the ELN and anti-ELN operations by the Colombian security forces will likely continue to some extent in the absence of a bilateral ceasefire, one of the early goals of the resumed talks. Furthermore, violence carried out by the country’s various other armed groups (drug cartels, right-wing militias, local gangs, etc.) will likely continue as normal.
The ELN - the country's last remaining rebel group following the demobilization of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) - was believed to have some 2000 fighters spread out over the departments of Nariño, Arauca, Boyacá, Norte de Santander, La Guajira, Cesar, Bolívar, Casanare, Santander, Chocó, Cauca, and Putumayo, particularly in rural zones. However, according to the Defense Ministry, nearly 200 ELN militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of the year.
Individuals in Colombia are advised to keep abreast of the situation. Due to the presence of a number of armed groups, some Western governments advise against travel to various regions of the country, notably rural areas.
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