Between War and Peace in Colombia

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Between War and Peace in Colombia

Credit Federico Rios

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When members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia began laying down their arms this year, it was a milestone in that country’s half-century of conflict. It did not, however, usher in peace. While the FARC, as it is known by its Spanish acronym, is the largest rebel group, it is not the only one. Among the others, the National Liberation Army, or E.L.N., has been in a pas de deux with the government as peace negotiations go in fits and starts in Ecuador.

Federico Rios has been following the process closely. He had already done a series of images on the FARC rebels as they prepared to lay down their weapons and reintegrate into society. But the larger story, he felt, was incomplete without the E.L.N., which in recent days has been accused by Human Rights Watch of a range of offenses, including kidnapping, planting mines and preventing people in the parts of the country’s northwest from earning a livelihood on their farms.

“With all the negotiations, and the peace with the FARC, I felt part of the story was lacking,” Mr. Rios said. “The E.L.N. is in the contested territory and control a great deal of it. We cannot talk about peace in Colombia without including the E.L.N.”


An E.L.N. member cuts the hair of a fellow member.Credit Federico Rios

The E.L.N. is the nation’s second-largest rebel group, and while it is not as big as the FARC, its members — drawn from the ranks of university students and others — are well armed and rely on kidnapping, drugs and illegal mining to finance its activities.

Mr. Rios, who had previously made numerous trips to the FARC camps, had a harder time getting access to the E.L.N. It took him a year to connect with someone who, in turn, put him in touch with the rebels. During that time, he would be ready to…

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