Ecopetrol denounces bomb attack in Colombia
February 12, 2018
Development: On 5 February, Colombia’s state-owned oil company, Ecopetrol, reported that another bomb attack had hit the Limón-Coveñas oil pipeline in Saravena, in the country’s north-eastern Arauca department.
Significance: This is the tenth attack targeting the Limón-Coveñas pipeline, Colombia’s main oil pipeline, to take place this year. Although the attack caused an oil spill affecting the soil and vegetation, Ecopetrol stated on Twitter that its contingency plan had prevented the oil from affecting any water course. As yet, no organisation has claimed responsibility for this most recent attack. Meanwhile, the private oil firm Frontera Energy announced yesterday that it was suspending operations at its Bloque Cubiro base in the north-eastern Casanare department, after receiving threats against its workers.
The Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) guerrilla group is well-known for its attacks on pipelines and other oil infrastructure in Colombia, and last month Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced the suspension of his government’s formal peace talks with the ELN after the guerrilla group launched an attack on the Limón-Coveñas pipeline just one day after the expiry of a bilateral ceasefire.
The countries supporting the peace talks with the ELN have called for a resumption of dialogue, warning of an escalation of violence, but this is unlikely to come about in a context of continued attacks on the oil infrastructure.
Frontera Energy has been operating Bloque Cubiro since 2012, with an average output of 3,600 barrels of oil a day, and it has been the target of protests since August 2017. A statement released by Frontera Energy blamed a minority of people in the San Luis de Palenque area for the closure. It has denounced the excessive demands of protestors and said that it does not believe they represent the beliefs of the local community.
Frontera Energy called for local authorities to mediate in the dispute, adding that it was willing to negotiate, but not under the pressure of violent threats to its workers. It has said that the closure will result in redundancies for 163 workers, as well as negatively impacting on 11 local firms that supply the base.
Looking Ahead: Although the attacks bear the hallmark of the ELN, they have taken place in areas where dissidents from the now-demobilised Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc) guerrillas, criminal gangs, and the ELN are all battling for territorial control. Attributing responsibility could be a key turning point: if it turns out that the ELN is behind the latest attack, the peace talks are likely to be abandoned. Although the emergence of a new actor adopting the same tactics would not be good news for Colombia, it would at least mean that attempts to arrive at an agreement with the largest active guerrilla group could resume.
Latin American Newsletters (LatinNews) was founded in London in 1967 to provide expert political, economic, and security analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean. For nearly 50 years, it has been acknowledged as the foremost authority on the region.