By Andrew Wight & Taran Volckhausen / Colombia Reports
Colombia’s second largest rebel group the ELN detonated explosives Wednesday at four crude oil holding pools along the Caño Limon – Coveñas pipeline in the state of North Santander.
A large blaze caused by the attacks created panic in the local population, who were forced to flee their homes, according to local media reports.
Authorities were taking measures to prevent further environmental damage after the attacks as well as reconstruct the damaged holding pools.
The attack marks the first attack by the ELN in 2014, although the rebel group has been coordinating attacks on Colombia’s oil production infrastructure for the past few months, declaring war against multinational oil companies operating in the country in November.
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.”
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 Catholic-Marxist 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.
From Systemic Capital