Peace and tension frustrated with Venezuela: what leaves the end of the dialogue with ELN
Colombia faces a new frustration in an attempt to extinguish its armed conflict: a car bomb attributed to ELN explodes dialogue with that guerrilla war in Cuba and promises to intensify, according to analysts, the tension with Venezuela, accused of giving shelter to the rebels.
But what else is the pause in the negotiations announced by the government of Ivan Duque?
1) Follow the war
The end of the talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), begun two years ago, postpones definitive peace in Colombia, whose half-century conflagration has been alleviated after the FARC's disarmament in 2017.
Although few have bet on the return of peaks of violence such as those that have shaken the country at the time of the narcoterrorism of Pablo Escobar or ex-communist ex-guerrilla war, the clash has oxygen.
"The war will continue," warns Ariel Ávila, of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation.
Although in its first year the agreement with the FARC has saved 3,000 deaths and the numbers of killings have suffered historical drops, the country faces a spiral of selective violence that has caused the death of nearly half a billion activists.
The authorities have indicated ELN as one of those responsible for these crimes, as well as the paramilitary-based narco gangs and the dissent of the FARC.
Experts suggest that there will be a surge in the conflict, with the blows of both sides, which could mean an increase in attacks, kidnappings and the destruction of oil infrastructure.
"This will be something long and painful," says Avila. And "in the short term, the rejection of the population prevents a negotiating scenario", says researcher Camilo Echandía, of the Universidad Externado.
2) The Venezuelan mess
Since Iván Duque assumed the presidency in August, allegations about the presence of ELN commanders in Venezuelan territory have further exacerbated the dispute between Bogotá and Caracas, which have practically no diplomatic relations since mid-2017.
Colombia has accused Venezuela of hosting the rebels and has asked the government of Nicolás Maduro to enforce international arrest warrants against guerrilla commanders.
Caracas denies that there are rebels in its territory, in accusations that come from the presidency of Álvaro Uribe (2002-10).
"ELN has a lot of troops in that area, so Venezuela will be a determining factor for good or bad," points out Avila.
However, according to researcher Ronald Rodríguez, ELN not only has a presence in Venezuela, but has recently expanded its activities in several Venezuelan states with Chavismo's benevolence.
This makes it unlikely that the rebel commanders can be detained and extradited in a cooperation process, adds the internationalist of the Venezuela Observatory of the Universidad del Rosario.
For this reason, he adds, Colombia could try to take the situation "in multilateral scenarios such as OAS, where the Venezuelan state is called to take concrete actions against this group", considered a terrorist from the United States and the US ;European Union.
Venezuela was a partner in the peace talks with the FARC and the guarantor in ELN, even though Duque lifted this condition in September.
The president directs international opposition against the "dictatorship" of Maduro, which accuses Colombia of having participated in a conspiracy with the United States and Brazil to overthrow and assassinate it.
The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, made a first warning: "We would like Venezuela not to give refugees, protection, to those terrorists of the ELN".
3) Internal dispute
Although experts point to an escalation in the conflict, they also sense the limited firepower of the guevarist group, which is not close to what the FARC once dissolved.
"You can not find a balance of strength with actions like this (the attack on Bogotá), which do not really require a significant military effort," explains researcher Echandía.
ELN is present in a dozen of the 32 Colombian departments and has about 1,800 fighters, albeit with an extensive support network.
The government and experts agree that ELN has occupied spaces left behind by the powerful communist guerrilla and even recruited dissidents, but they are far from seizing power by force. His actions mainly concern kidnappings and attacks on oil infrastructure.
Echandía argues that the transfer of explosives from Arauca to Bogota for Thursday's attack is a sign that ELN does not have the "ability to carry out attacks in the center of the country on the basis of its own strength".
"It must come from its strongest sector", which is located in the border area with Venezuela, from which the material author comes, he added.
There he commanded the commander "Pablito", considered the hard line opposed to negotiating a political solution to the conflict. The rebel leader concentrates much of the military capability of the ELN in addition to controlling that oil region.
The imposition of the hard-line within the guerrilla, warned by experts, is exacerbated by the historical difficulty of negotiating for its federal structure, which gives voice to each front and hampers its unity of command.
"The big problem for ELN is the internal division that has (…) and at the moment it seems insurmountable," says Echandía.