BOGOTA – Eleven National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas deserted in southern Colombia and walked for several days through the jungle until they were able to surrender to authorities, Nariño province police chief Col. William Montezuma Lopez said.
The rebels surrendered in three hamlets in the province, which is on the border with Ecuador, Lopez told reporters Saturday.
Seven of the guerrillas surrendered in Guachavez, one in Roberto Payan and three others in Samaniego, the police chief said.
The rebels’ surrender was coordinated with the Ombudsman’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, which were contacted by the ELN members, the commander of the army’s 23rd Brigade said.
The majority of the guerrillas had belonged to the ELN for more than 10 years, the military spokesman said.
The rebels will be allowed to join a program created by the government that offers financial, medical, educational and security assistance to members of illegal armed groups who surrender, the military spokesman said.
The ELN has waged a four-decade insurgency against a succession of Colombian administrations. Several attempts to negotiate peace with the group in the 1990s and earlier this decade broke down after weeks or months of talks.
The most recent peace process between the ELN, which has 5,000 members and was founded in 1964, and the government started in 2005 and was suspended in August 2007 due to differences over various issues.
The ELN is the country’s second-largest guerrilla organization after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.