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Duque closes the dialogue with ELN in Cuba and sends warnings to Venezuela

The Colombian president Iván Duque ended the dying peace process on Friday with the ELN in Cuba after a car bomb in Bogota was attributed to that guerrilla and launched a veiled warning to Venezuela, where according to the government the rebel leaders take refuge.

The day after the attack that killed 20 young students of a police academy, as well as the alleged assailant, Duque went to the country to announce the reactivation of arrest warrants against the peace negotiators. armed organization.

"I ordered the lifting of the suspension of the arrest warrants for the ten members of the ELN that constituted the delegation of this group in Cuba and I revoked the resolution that created the conditions that would allow him to remain in that country", he said.

This means, he added, "the immediate cessation of all the benefits granted to them in the past by the State and the activation of the red circulars of Interpol" for their position and capture.

So far, the guerrillas have not spoken out on the charges against him or the decision of the president, who when he took power in August had suspended the dialogues that his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos had held with the ELN since 2017, before in Quito and then in Havana.

According to Duque, the government will intensify the persecution of the guerrillas and denounce "any state that provides support or allows the presence of members of this group in its territory".

The message is basically a notification to Venezuela, where according to the Colombian authorities lie the leaders of the last guerrilla war recognized in Colombia after the 2016 peace pact, which disarmed and transformed the powerful FARC into a party.

Caracas and the rebels denied those versions.

In the meantime, "we appreciate the solidarity expressed by the Cuban government and today we ask them to make the capture of the terrorists in their territory effective and hand them over to the Colombian police authorities," the president said.

– Without evidence –

Duque decided to break the agonizing process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) – the fifth to fail in 55 years of armed revolt – after blaming the Guevarists for Thursday's "despicable attack".

The act against the cadet school was committed by an explosives expert in that group, identified as José Aldemar Rojas, 56, who died in the attack, according to Defense Minister Guillermo Botero.

At the same time, the accusation reiterated the allegations that the leaders of ELN are taking refuge in Venezuela, plunged into a serious economic crisis and the goal of strong pressure led by the United States seeking , Nicolás Maduro's exit from power.

However, the Colombian government has stated that it has no evidence to imply Venezuelan officials at this event.

The influential Chavista leader Diosdado Cabello denied the involvement of Caracas and condemned the attack. "The lackeys of imperialism are pointing to Venezuela, we have nothing to do with that war," he said.

Known in the ranks of the Guevarista group as "Mocho Kiko", for having lost his right hand in a detonation, Rojas was head of the intelligence of a rebel structure that operates in the department of Arauca, on the border with Venezuela. He had been in the organization for three decades.

– Suicide attack?

Of Colombian nationality, Rojas entered "violently" on Thursday aboard a truck loaded with 80 kilos of pentolite. The vehicle exploded in front of the women's dormitories of the main police school with him inside.

"There is still no (…) any element that would allow us to conclude that this person committed suicide," said Botero.

According to the minister, even if "there are many hypotheses that are taken into consideration", the original plan would be to activate explosives remotely through an "electronic device".

The explosion killed 20 young people between 17 and 22 years. Among the deceased there is an Ecuadorian cadet. There were also 68 wounded, including three children. Nine people remain hospitalized.

Minister Botero said that "Mocho Kiko" was in Venezuela in 2011 teaching the management of explosives to the guerrilla refugees in that country. But he said he had no indication on the participation of Venezuelan officials in the attack.

This Friday the indictment announced the capture in Bogota of Ricardo Andrés Carvajal, who "recognized the responsibility of the attack".

The attack, described by Duque as "insane terrorist act", is the worst in Bogotá since February 2003, when the FARC detonated a car bomb in the El Nogal club. Thirty-six people died and dozens were injured.

– "Declaration of war" –

With around 1800 fighters and an extended support network in the cities, ELN took up arms in 1964 and is the last recognized guerrilla in Colombia.

The president had imposed dialogue conditions rejected by the guerrillas: the permanent cessation of "criminal activities" such as kidnapping and attacks on oil infrastructure.

Even so, the rebels insisted that Duque resume talks without requests.

"The process has been virtually completed" and the attack allegedly perpetrated by the ELN "is a declaration of war," said Ariel Ávila, of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation.

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