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Colombian rebel group announces ceasefire for upcoming presidential election

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group announced on Monday a 10-day ceasefire to allow May 29 presidential elections to pass off peacefully.

“We decree a unilateral ceasefire from 0:00 hours on May 25 until 24:00 hours on June 3 for those who wish to vote can do so in peace,” the rebel group said in a statement.

According to the group, the “ceasefire only covers the government’s Military and Police Forces. We reserve the right to defend ourselves in case we are attacked.”

The statement adds that the rebel group is willing to resume peace talks that were suspended by President Ivan Duque in January 2019, a day after the group carried out a bombing in a police academy in Bogota that killed 21 police officers and injured 68 more. Duque has said he is not willing to negotiate with the rebels in view of their refusal to cease attacks against the population and the security forces.

“A Peace Process with the ELN is the best opportunity to address priority issues for the country such as corruption, murders of social leaders and drug trafficking,” read the statement. The guerrilla group added that the will to resume peace talks is in the hands of the next president.

“The ball is in the court of the new President”.

Gustavo Petro, a former left-wing guerrilla leader, is leading the polls in the election.

Defense Minister Diego Molano made a statement after the armed group’s announcement, saying that the truce is given by the military forces and not the rebel group.

“This morning I heard that they were saying that they are going to decree a truce in order to position themselves for future dialogues,” Molano said. “Here the security is provided by the Public Force… the one that has guaranteed and will guarantee the safety during the elections”, he said.

The Colombian government defends that most of the ELN’s top leaders are currently hiding in neighboring Venezuela.

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