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Rival Colombian Groups In Turf War As Government Peace Deadline Approaches

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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Two rival Marxist rebel groups are currently engaged in a turf war just as peace talks between the Colombian government and one of the rebel groups nears its March deadline.

The Army of National Liberation (ELN) is the smaller of the two infamous groups in Colombia, the other being the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). ELN negotiators are currently engaged in preliminary discussions with the Colombian government about achieving a lasting peace.

FARC, on the other hand, is ending its formal peace talks March 23 in Havana, Cuba, and the Colombian government is hoping a peace deal will be reached by that date. It is thought the ELN is opportunistically taking over FARC-held drug trafficking routes on Colombia’s Pacific Coast. Both organizations act as intermediaries for trafficking Colombian cocaine to Mexican cartels.

The National Indigenous Office of Colombia, which is in charge of issues affecting ethnically indigenous Colombians, has informed the Colombian government it should look into the possibility of ELN fighters joining the ranks of rivals in FARC in regions that are home to many indigenous communities. This formal demand for an investigation is alarming as negotiations between the government and FARC are nearing their final deadline but this might not matter if there is no peace with an emboldened ELN.

Due to the different pace at which negotiations are being conducted between the Colombian government and the two rebel groups, this could lead to an inconclusive peace settlement. If the government reaches a peace deal with the FARC, it may be a hollow if most FARC fighters defect to the ELN. A stronger ELN could then back out of its peace talks with the government.

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