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Commander of Colombia's ELN armed group stands down due to health

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By Reuters
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By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA -Colombian rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) on Thursday said top leader Nicolas Rodriguez will resign his command due to poor health, and named Antonio Garcia as the group’s new commander.

Rodriguez, also known by his nom de guerre Gabino, currently resides in Cuba, where he has been receiving medical treatment since 2018.

With his medical treatment ongoing, the 71-year-old Rodriguez said he is unable to effectively lead the group.

“This unfortunate circumstance prevents me from carrying out my duties as First Commander of the ELN, which has led me to submit my resignation from that position, which has been accepted,” Rodriguez said in a recorded message posted on the rebel group’s website.

Garcia, whose real name is Eliecer Herlinto Chamorro Acosta, will replace Rodriguez as the group’s top leader, while its second and third commanders will be Pablo Beltran and Pablo Marin respectively.

The ELN is estimated to have some 2,500 combatants and has fought the government since its 1964 founding by extremist Catholic priests.

A 2019 ELN car bomb attack at Bogota’s police academy killed 22 people and ended nascent peace talks between the ELN and the government.