HomeNewsBriefEcuador Warned of Potential Cross-Border Attack by ELN
BRIEF

Ecuador Warned of Potential Cross-Border Attack by ELN

COLOMBIA / 27 JAN 2019 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Ecuadorean security forces are on high alert after receiving reports Colombia’s ELN guerrillas are planning a cross-border attack, highlighting what has until now been a major blind spot in Ecuador’s border security strategy.

Security forces in Colombia have issued an alert to their Ecuadorean counterparts, seen by InSight Crime, that the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberacíon Nacional – ELN) is planning an attack against military or police in the border region. The report identifies facilities and units in the municipalities of Mira in the province of Carchi and San Lorenzo in Esmeraldas as potential targets.

While the warning makes no mention of the motives for the attack, a senior official from the Ecuadorean police, speaking on condition of anonymity, told InSight Crime any attack would likely be politically rather than strategically motivated.

According to the official, the ELN may be looking to retaliate against the Ecuadorean government for throwing guerrilla leaders out of the country after refusing to continue hosting peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government last year.

And the guerrillas could also be sending a message over Ecuador’s support for Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself president, as the guerrillas are believed to have ties to the current embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, the source added.

SEE ALSO: ELN News and Profile

The ELN has no verified armed presence within Ecuador, but according to intelligence reports seen by InSight Crime, the rebels’ Jose Luis Cabrera Company operates just to the west of the major Ipiales-Tulcan border crossing. The company is part of the Comuneros del Sur Front, which is a major player in the underworld war to control criminal economies in the Colombian border department of Nariño.

In addition, the police official reported that, while the ELN were in Ecuador for peace talks, they also worked hard to build a support network within the country. According to the official, the rebels established contacts with high-level national government officials, and local political and community leaders in the border region. While authorities believe their main aim was to establish political ties, they are concerned the guerrillas could also have been looking to set up logistical support networks and supply lines.

InSight Crime Analysis

An attack against the Ecuadorean security forces would be a high risk move for the ELN. The last underworld figure to launch spectacular attacks in Ecuador was Walter Patricio Arízala Vernaza, alias “Guacho,” who led a criminalized splinter group of former guerrillas from the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC).

Guacho was killed in December 2018 after his attack against police, military and journalists in Ecuador only succeeded in pushing Colombia and Ecuador to dramatically improve bilateral security cooperation as they united to hunt down the former guerrilla fighter.

SEE ALSO: Ecuador Organized Crime News

With the Colombian government desperate to strike hard at the ELN following the car bomb attack on police facilities in Bogota that killed 21 people in mid-January, an ELN attack in Ecuador would likely provoke a similar cross-border assault.

However, sources in Ecuador also talk of a different concern – that the ELN will look to build on the foundations they established during peace talks to use Ecuador as a rear guard, logistical hub and supply line. This would also potentially increase their criminal earnings as it would allow them to control movement through what is one of the main cocaine trafficking corridors out of Colombia and a region where illegal gold mining is on the rise.

While the ELN’s border strategy remains unclear, the attack alerts stand as a stark warning to Ecuadorean authorities: by focusing their attention almost exclusively on the ex-FARC Mafia, they have created both space and opportunity for the ELN.

 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELN / 3 OCT 2012

Colombian guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) has used Venezuelan territory for decades, but…

COLOMBIA / 22 OCT 2015

Locals in eastern Colombia have reportedly hidden the remains of recently killed narco-guerrilla "Megateo" and built a shrine in his…

COLOMBIA / 26 AUG 2013

Colombian security forces have captured a regional leader of the powerful Urabeños drug gang, an event unlikely to greatly affect…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.