Colombia Rebels ELN Deny Drug Trafficking

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Colombian rebel group the ELN has denied that it is involved in drug trafficking, or that it takes refuge over the Venezuelan border.

In a statement in the group’s official website, the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional – ELN) declared its respect for the “people’s revolutionary process” in Venezuela. It said it would not interfere with “the political principle of self-determination of peoples” and so would not use Venezuelan territory.

The message, signed by the group’s Eastern War Front, also denied the rebels’ involvement in kidnappings or assassinations in the border area between Colombia and Venezuela.

The statement is, according to the ELN, an attempt to clarify a series of mistaken media reports in both countries.

In particular, the statement rejected reports by newspaper La Nacion that the group is holding Venezuelan soldiers hostage in Alto Apure, and is responsible for the murder of a woman in the east Colombian Arauca province.

The ELN also denied allegations of any connections to the narcotics trade, “an activity so detrimental to humanity.”

The insurgent organization has claimed for decades to shun drug trafficking, but recent evidence suggests a change in policy. As InSight Crime has noted, the group has sought alliances with drug trafficking organizations such as the Rastrojos in order to face increasing government military pressure.

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