Colombia’s Other Insurgents: Why Peace With the ELN Is Proving Elusive

Colombia’s Other Insurgents: Why Peace With the ELN Is Proving Elusive
Demobilized ELN rebels wait in line to surrender their weapons at a military base, Tumaco, Colombia, April 3, 2009 (AP photo by William Fernando Martinez).

MEDELLIN, Colombia—The seven men arrived in the tiny hamlet of Carra, in the western Colombian state of Choco, just as darkness was falling on the evening of March 25. They were dressed in camouflage and were armed with rifles. According to witnesses, on their arms they wore bands bearing three letters: ELN, which stands for Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, the National Liberation Army.

Witnesses described how they shouted, threatened, smashed up boats and kicked over tables. They called the terrified residents “paracos”—slang for paramilitaries—as they searched the houses. And then they raised their rifles and opened fire. Four people died from bullets to the head, and one more drowned trying to escape; all the victims came from the same family. By the next day, every one of Carra’s 15 houses stood abandoned.

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