Rebel faction in Colombia reaches peace deal ahead of Pope Francis’s visit

From the Washington PostAhead of a historic visit by Pope Francis, Colombian officials signed a temporary cease-fire deal Monday with the leftist rebels of the ELN, potentially putting the long-troubled nation on track for a broader era of peace.

The deal with the ELN marks Colombia’s first cease-fire with an armed group founded in the 1960s with the aid of radical Catholic priests. It comes on the heels of a peace accord reached last year with what was Colombia’s largest armed guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The ELN, or the National Liberation Army, had long been Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla movement, engaging in extortion, kidnappings and attacks on civilians and oil pipelines.

Under the 102-day cease-fire signed in Quito, Ecuador, after months of talks and set to start Oct. 1, the ELN has pledged to stop those activities. In return, jailed ELN fighters would receive improved conditions and the government would increase security for leftist community leaders, dozens of whom have been killed in recent months. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

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