|Looking for a rest? ELN fighters on the march.|
|A pipeline blown by an ELN bomb.|
The ELN, or National Liberation Army, will soon follow Colombia's larger guerrilla group, the FARC, into peace negotiations with the government and, by bombing and murdering, the ELN wants to assert that it still matters.
It's a strange way to throw a birthday party. But the ELN guerrillas, despite their idealistic roots and rhetoric, seem to have devolved into destructiveness and cynical self-justification.
|The ELN's most famous member, guerrilla-priest |
Camilo Torres painted on the wall of the
Universidad Nacional's library in Bogotá.
I once interviewed a woman who had been a member of an ELN unit, which marched thru the countryside collecting ransom payments and extortion money. One time, in a rural region, they learned of a traveling salesman offering plumbing supplies. The ELN commander observed that the region didn't have running water, and concluded that the man must be a spy. The guerrillas captured and murdered him.
The woman had participated in one of the ELN factions' many demobilizations and lived in Bogotá.
|What kind of rifle would Christ carry? |
A Christ-like Camilo Torres
painted by Oscar Rostgaard, 1969.
The ELN's most famous member, and one of its most idealistic, was Camilo Torres, a Catholic priest who was also chaplain of the National University. A follower of the Liberation Theology movement, in 1966 Torres gave up on society and joined the ELN. He was killed in his first battle, becoming one of the Colombian Left's many martyrs.
I wonder what the idealistic Torres would think about the ELN''s 50th-year anniversary communique, which lamented the 'high costs of these 50 years of effort in human lives of many of our companions,' but ignores the ELN's innumerable civilian victims.
The time for the ELN's violence and ideology have come and gone. Fifty years are enough.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours