BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Monday the suspension of negotiations with ELN rebels in response to weekend attacks by the insurgent group that left seven police dead.
“I have made the decision to suspend the fifth round of negotiations expected to start in the coming days until I see coherence on the part of the ELN between its words and actions,” the president said during an event in La Palma, a town in Cundinamarca province.
The bombings staged by the National Liberation Army (ELN) over the weekend killed five police officers and wounded 41 others in Barranquilla; wounded five officers in neighboring Soledad; and killed two officers and wounded two others in Buenavista, a village located outside the city of Santa Rosa, in Bolivar province.
An ELN urban guerrilla unit claimed responsibility for the attack in Barranquilla.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said Monday that the government considered the guerrilla group to be behind all the attacks.
“The fifth round (of talks) will take place when the ELN’s conduct matches the Colombian people’s and international community’s demands for peace,” Santos said.
The peace negotiations between the government and ELN started in Quito, Ecuador, on Feb. 7, 2017.
“The government has been generous and shown its willingness to pursue a permanent peace, a willingness that cannot be changed by the political situation because it’s a willingness for peace founded on principles and my duty as head of state, as president and as a Colombian,” Santos said.
The president said that while he was committed to peace, he had ordered the security forces to continue “fulfilling their constitutional duties with maximum determination.”