Latin AmericaRise to Peace blog

Old Crisis Sparks Anew: The Bogota Car Bombing

Source: The Tico Times (2019) 

Author: Billy Baker

Colombia has a bloody history of political violence (La Violencia, FARC, ELN). But after the peace agreement with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016 and the peace talks with ELN (National Liberation Army), many thought that this would be the end of the bloodshed.

That was until January 17th, 2019, when a vehicle drove into the National Police Academy in Bogota, Colombia. The truck, armed with explosives, sped into the facility until hitting a wall. This triggered the detonation, killing 21 people (including the driver) and injuring 68 others. This marked the deadliest attack in 16 years.

Shortly after the bombing, ELN members in Colombia claimed responsibility for the attack. This has stalled peace talks currently being held in Cuba, although ELN chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, has denied involvement in the attack. Colombian President Ivan Duque is now calling for the Cuban government to arrest and extradite the ELN negotiators in the country.

The Cuban government has responded by stating that they will follow the previously agreed protocol for a break in the dialogue. The protocol for this situation allows ELN negotiators to travel back to Colombia through Venezuela in a safe manner. It also requires the Colombian military not to engage any identified rebel strongholds for a 72-hour period during their return.

So what does this mean for the future? This single attack has damaged prospects for peace between ELN and the Colombian government, with the possibility of bringing back an escalation of widespread violence that Colombia has not experienced for years. This is unfortunately a possibility for a variety of reasons (low popularity for President Márquez, widespread disgust against ELN’s attack, need to respond to the attack).

It is necessary for the Colombian government to respond to the violence and crime that ELN has committed over the years. Along with the attack in Bogota, ELN has committed numerous attacks since peace talks began. Peace talks have proved difficult due to the group’s decentralized structure. This most recent attack by ELN has caused uncertainty about the future of political violence in Colombia.

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