Bogotá, Nov 10 (EFE).- The head of the National Liberation Army (ELN), alias “Antonio García,” said Friday that the Colombian guerrilla group “will not accept impositions or blackmail” after government negotiators demanded the release of all hostages.
“The ELN will not accept impositions or blackmail. They should have no illusions,” Eliécer Chamorro, who goes by the nom de guerre “Antonio García,” said in a social media post.
He also questioned the government about its own violations of the ceasefire that has been in place since Aug. 3, asking whether it would “continue to play dumb.”
Tensions between the Colombian government and the rebels, who are engaged in peace talks since last year, rose last week after the ELN admitted to kidnapping the father of professional football player Luis Díaz, who was released on Thursday.
The government delegation issued a statement after the release, saying that the current peace process with the ELN “has progressed like no other before,” but recognized that the kidnapping of Luis Manuel Díaz had created a “critical situation” and demanded that “the time has come to take decisions that will eliminate abductions.”
The ELN admitted that the kidnapping of Luis Manuel Díaz was a “mistake,” and although they announced that they would release him on November 2, they took a week longer to fulfill their promise, causing an escalation of tensions in the peace negotiations.
But the rebels continue to argue that kidnappings, which they call “economic retentions,” are a way to finance their operations, and that so far they have not agreed to stop using them until a “concrete and real solution for the financing of the ceasefire” is reached, García said in another social media post.
The delegations will meet soon for a new round of negotiations, but did not say when the dialogue would resume.
The government representatives said that they will demand “the immediate release of each person held captive by this organization, in conditions of security and dignity.”
According to official figures, 32 people have been kidnapped by the ELN for extortion this year, and at least four are still being held by the guerrilla group. EFE