Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Colombia: Manizales Geologist Kidnapped by ELN Rebels, Update to Follow

According to The Latin American Tribune, members of the rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), kidnapped a geologist engaged in cartography work in the northern province of César, the Colombian Geological Service (SGC) said on Tuesday (July 2).

Andrés Felipe Calle Valencia, a contractor from Manizales-based University of Caldas, has been held since Sunday afternoon (June 29) by unconfirmed members of the ELN.

“Faced with this bleak situation, the Colombian Geological Service asks that the life and physical well-being of geologist Andres Felipe (Calle) be spared, in the hope that he will be released as soon as possible,” the statement added.

COMMENT: Considering that both the ELN and the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are both seemingly engaged in peace talks with the Government of Colombia, and have been since 2012, the abduction of yet another kidnap victim is hardly a way of convincing Bogotá that either of the rebel groups are genuine.

Keeping in mind that generally I applaud all governments that endeavor to end a 50-year-old armed conflict that has claimed as many as 200,000 lives, from the outset I have said that neither the FARC or the ELN were genuinely interested in peace, but rather being able to legitimately run for political office.

Having studied operational conflict both as a diplomat and a consultant for nearly 35 years, it has been my sense all along that if either rebel group was really interested in a genuine peace, they would have been agreeable to a cease-fire which is at the core of all peace negotiations.

As is well known, President Juan Carlos Santos, 62, won a second-term in June as a member of the Social Party of National Unity, although technically the President claims to be a conservative.

Interestingly, the ELN offered no definition of the "strike" before ordering it.

The kidnapping was reported just 24 hours after the ELN announced a general strike between July 3-6 on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

The strike will be enforced in regions where the ELN has the greatest influence: “on roads, in transport and businesses in Arauca, Boyaca, Casanare and the Santanders,” all provinces near the border with Venezuela.

This report will be updated as new information comes to light.