In a statement released on the ELN website Tuesday, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group declared war on the multinationals and oil companies “plundering” the country’s natural resources.
The ELN’s Eastern War Front Commander, Manuel Vasquez Castaño, confirmed that a slew of recent attacks directed at Colombia’s oil infrastructure have been intended to hurt the pockets of multinationals active in the country.
“Once again, we reaffirm our belligerent stance to confront multinationals and their repressive apparatus: the plunderers and exploiters of natural resources,” he said. “Colombia is a colony of North American imperialism — bourgeois elites in power sold to the highest bidder and in the name of democracy deliver natural resources to their Yankee masters.”
The statement went on to discuss the high prices of Colombia’s internal combustible market, which lead to nationwide strikes in the trucking sector this past summer and have been sited by farm organizers involved in ongoing negotiations with the government as a reason for the financial insolubility of the agricultural market.
“We are one of the top oil-producing countries worldwide,” said Vasquez, “but Colombia has (some of) the world’s most expensive gasoline.”
According to analysis website Insight Crime, kidnappings, extortion and attacks on economic infrastructure have become central components of ELN strategy.
The ELN made headlines this summer when it kidnapped Canadian mining official Gernot Wober and held him for ransom.
Wober was eventually released to the Colombian government, in exchange for a start to preliminary negotiations over a formal peace process.
The rebel group has asked for broad talks along the lines of the peace deal currently being negotiated in Havana, Cuba between government officials and the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group.
But despite agreeing to initiate the process, the Colombian government has yet to reach out to the ELN central command, which has repeatedly called for the start of discussions, and recently launched an offensive against oil and gas pipelines in rural Colombia, in what is believed to be a measure to pressure the Colombian government into talks.
Despite the ELN’s efforts, Colombia’s state-owned Ecopetrol oil company reported a net profit of $2.05 billion in the third quarter of 2013 and record levels of oil production.
The Colombian government has yet to respond to the ELN’s most recent announcement, and hasn’t indicated that any plan to develop talks will be forthcoming.
The ELN, which continues to employ the anti-capitalist rhetoric of its origins as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group, has since become dependent on the illicit mining and gold trade, running operations throughout the country that exploit Colombia’s rural poor and generate sizable revenue streams for the group’s other activities.