The "National Liberation Army" (ELN) claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 20 police recruits in Colombia and threatens to endanger the country's fragile peace process. The guerrillas — which are designated as terrorists by the Canadian, Colombian, EU, Peruvian, and US governments — defended the attack by saying that it was legitimately within the rules of war because it didn't target civilians, arguing that it was carried out in response to right-wing president Ivan Duque's disregard of the ongoing peace talks. Colombia's newest leader was elected over the summer after pledging to take a hard line towards his country's militants, which caused the fragile peace process between Bogotá and the ELN to naturally break down and saw the group resort to pipeline bombings and other kinetic actions prior to declaring a Christmas ceasefire before the resumption of talks in Cuba.
Some of the ELN's leaders are actually in the island nation right now as part of that process and Colombia has demanded that Cuba extradite them, though Havana has refused to do so since that would violate the terms under which it agreed to host those talks and therefore undermine its international credibility. Colombia does have a trick up its sleeve that it could try to apply, however, and that's its strategic relationship with the US. Bogotá and Washington are decades-long allies, and Trump has signaled that he's not going to be as "soft" on Cuba as his predecessor was, meaning that his government might seek to get involved in this simmering diplomatic spat and use it as the pretext for implementing more sanctions against the country or other sorts of regime change pressure.
Colombia also became NATO's first-ever "global partner" in Latin America last year, and while it's always enjoyed very close ties with the alliance, the military bloc could provide it with additional support in the event that Duque launches a far-reaching crackdown against the ELN in response to what some have reported is intense public pressure to do so. The South American nation could leverage that scenario in order to position itself as a multilateral military platform for pressuring neighboring Venezuela as well, thereby allowing it to proverbially "kill two birds with one stone" and further increase its strategic significance to the US and NATO. Generally speaking, the resumption of civil war in Colombia could lead to many other unpredictable consequences that might further complicate the changing geopolitics of the region by creating various opportunities and challenges for the relevant stakeholders.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Hrvoje Morić, former adjunct professor of International Relations at México's Tecnológico de Monterrey, a Global Perspectives Teacher at the Nazarbayev Intellectual School in Kazakhstan, and the host of The Geopolitics & Empire Podcast and Eldan Cruz, a communication strategist currently based in Honduras where he does regional political analysis.
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