National Liberation Army, ELN, The Army of National Liberation
The ELN was founded in 1964 by Fabio Vasquez Castano, a Cuban-trained rebel communist. After his death, leadership was transferred to a number of successors, many of them Catholic extremists.
The group’s current leader is Antonio Garcia, a Marxist-inspired revolutionary.
The ELN is the second largest left wing militant organization in Colombia after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). The group operates primarily in north-eastern Colombia, near the Venezuelan border, with an estimated strength of between 2,200 and 3,000 members. Many of the group’s early supporters were Cuban-trained paramilitaries inspired by such figures as Che Guevara.
During the 1980s and 1990s, ELN derived most of its funding from the extortion of businesses and middle class civilians in the group’s areas of operation. ELN routinely kidnapped civilians in exchange for ransom and extorted money from Colombian and foreign petroleum companies. Since then, ELN has come to rely predominantly on cocaine smuggling and other drug trafficking operations. Revenues from drug trafficking are estimated to be between $200 million to $3.5 billion USD, according to official sources.
ELN was founded in 1964 by Fabio Vasquez Castano with a membership comprised of students, Catholic revolutionaries, and left-wing intellectuals. The group emerged in the wake of a decade of political violence in Colombia, dating from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. A wave of paramilitary organizations, such as ELN, formed in the 1960s after the Colombian Congress passed legislation that permitted the formation of local self-defence forces.
Major attacks have targeted oil pipelines and other economic infrastructure.
June 20, 2014: The ELN took responsibility for a bomb attack outside a small police station in Bogota, killing two police officers and injuring one civilian.
ELN traces its ideological roots to Marxist ideology and the implementation of a revolutionary communist government in Colombia, with the view to redress the gross socio-economic inequalities among the social classes of Colombia.
The group’s primary objective is to “seize power for the people” and establish a revolutionary government in Colombia.
Kidnappings, hijackings, extortion, bombings, firearm attacks, assassination. ELN primarily targets energy and oil infrastructure, political figures, and government personnel.
Updated on December 10, 2015.
- “FARC, ELN: Colombia’s Left-Wing Guerillas. Council on Foreign Relations. Last Modified December, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2015. http://www.cfr.org/colombia/farc-eln-colombias-left-wing-guerrillas/p9272
- “Currently Listed Entities.” Public Safety Canada. Last modified November, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2019