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National Liberation Army (ELN)--Colombia


Marxist insurgent group formed in 1965 by urban intellectuals inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. In October 2003, the Colombian Government released top ELN leader Felipe Torres from prison, hoping to spur the ELN to accept government demands to declare a cease-fire and come back to the negotiating table, but by year’s end peace talks had not commenced.


Kidnapping, hijacking, bombing, and extortion. Minimal conventional military capability. Annually conducts hundreds of kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreign employees of large corporations, especially in the petroleum industry. Derives some revenue from taxation of the illegal narcotics industry. Frequently assaults energy infrastructure and has inflicted major damage on pipelines and the electric distribution network. In September, the ELN kidnapped eight foreign tourists, but they have all since either escaped or been released.


Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 armed combatants and an unknown number of active supporters.

Location/Area of Operation

Mostly in rural and mountainous areas of north, northeast, and southwest Colombia and Venezuela border regions.

External Aid

Cuba provides some degree of safehaven, medical care, and political consultation. Reports persist that ELN members are often able to obtain safehaven inside Venezuelan territory near the Colombian border.

Sources and Resources

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated May 21, 2004