Catholic Church in Colombia welcomes freeing of hostages by ELN

CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2020 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The Colombian bishops have welcomed the release of several hostages by the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group.

“The Colombian Bishops view with hope for the Colombian people the recent release of the 5 men abducted by the ELN in the town of Arauca and the Catatumbo region,” the bishops’ conference tweeted June 14.

In another tweet the same day, the bishops’ conference said: “We share the joy of the families of Pedro Pérez and Óscar Rodríguez, released on June 12; and Besley Navarro, Dayan Flórez and Jhon Torres, handed over today by the ELN”, adding: “The Church calls for the release of all those kidnapped” and for “humanitarian actions to continue paving the way to reconciliation and peace.”

“We pray for those who are still held captive and their loved ones,” the bishops concluded.

Two police officers and four civilians were released to the Red Cross June 14; two other civilians had been released June 12.

The Colombian government believes the ELN has at least 10 more hostages.

A 2016 peace deal between the national government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was meant to wind-down the country’s now 56-year conflict among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas.

In February 2017 peace talks were established with the ELN. However, in 2018, after the first period of the ceasefire expired, the guerrilla group undertook various military operations.

In January 2019, the ELN bombed a police academy, killing more than 20 persons.

Colombian president Iván Duque Márquez has insisted that the resumption of peace talks with the guerillas was to be conditioned on the release of all those kidnapped and the suspension of all criminal activities.

In March 2020, the ELN announced a unilateral ceasefire due to the coronavirus.

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