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Cablegate: Eln Military Actions and Area of Operations

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #8047 3181610
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141610Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0098
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9532
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV 9051
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5624
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0816
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6251
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4167
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1866

UNCLAS BOGOTA 008047

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR CO
SUBJECT: ELN MILITARY ACTIONS AND AREA OF OPERATIONS
SHRINKING

REF: BOGOTA 5789

1. Summary: Local security experts and peace advocates said
ELN attacks against the GOC fell over 90 percent from
2002-2006. The ELN's geographic area of operations also
shrank dramatically. The experts voiced hope that the ELN's
fading military capacity would make the group ready for peace
negotiations. End Summary.

2. On October 12, Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris Director Leon
Valencia and Conflict Analysis Resource Center (CERAC)
director Jorge Restrepo held a conference on "Thinking
Strategically About the ELN Negotiation Process." Restrepo,
Valencia and other security experts concluded that ELN
military and terrorist activity has fallen sharply in recent
years. ELN attacks against the Colombian military dropped
from nearly 200 in 2002 to approximately 80 in 2006;
kidnappings fell from 331 in 2003 to 63 in 2006; and overall
attacks against the GOC declined from 400 in 2001 to 23 in
2006. ELN activities continued to decline in 2007. By
comparison, CERAC and ICG said FARC attacks against the
military peaked in 2004 with over 600 recorded. The number
fell to 395 in 2006.

3. The experts noted that unlike the FARC and
ex-paramilitaries, the ELN did not try to inflict large-scale
civilian casualties, including massacres, although it
frequently resorted to mass kidnappings. Similarly, CERAC
highlighted that the ELN did not use assassination as a
primary tactic as did the FARC. A recently released
International Crisis Group (ICG) report supports the view
that ELN military capacity and its geographic area of
operation have declined sharply since 2002. ICG speculates
that this might make the group more open to peace
negotiations with the GOC.

4. Valencia and Restrepo said the ELN's area of geographic
operations previously stretched in an arc from the southern
Pacific coast across the Andes to the northeast, including
areas of Cordoba, Sucre, Choco and Huila departments. GOC
and FARC pressure have now reduced the ELN to operating along
the border with Venezuela (Norte del Santander and Arauca)
and the far-southwest (Valle de Cauca, Cauca, Narino). They
said the ELN is concentrating forces and avoiding combat.
Restrepo and Valencia speculated that the low level of ELN
activity in 2007 and their concentration of troops may
signify a desire to commit to a peace process. Still, Peace
Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, Senate President Nancy
Patricia Gutierrez and others are pessimistic the ELN will be
able to reach the internal consensus needed to achieve a
peace deal (reftel).

Brownfield

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