BOGOTA – Colombia’s National Liberation Army, or ELN, said it is willing to end its offensive against the oil industry if the government agrees to make some areas off-limits and to levy a $10 per barrel “social tax” on production of crude.
The ELN, which has a history of blowing up pipelines and kidnapping oil workers in the petroleum-rich northeastern province of Arauca, made the proposal in a document posted on its Web site.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ government needs to bar oil and gas extraction in indigenous reserves and nature parks, the rebels say.
The insurgents also demand reparations to communities for the environmental and social damage caused by oil exploration and production, as well as compensation for the owners of properties that are on pipeline routes.
The payments to communities and landowners would be financed by the proposed $10 a barrel tax on oil.
More broadly, the ELN wants the government to cut retail fuel prices by “up to 50 percent,” eliminate road tolls and nationalize all privately operated highways.
The ELN, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group, released on Tuesday 11 employees of Consorcio Casanare Avanzada, one of the firms building a pipeline in Arauca for Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol.
Seized by the ELN last week, the workers were handed over to a delegation including representatives of the Red Cross, Catholic Church and Colombian National Ombud’s office.
Colombia, which pumps an average of 941,000 barrels per day, ranks seventh among countries supplying crude oil to the United States. EFE