President Santos Blames ELN Rebels for Bomb Blasts in Bogota

Bomb attacks on two pension fund offices in Bogota Thursday were probably the work of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, Colombia’s second-largest Marxist guerrilla group, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The explosions that hit two branches of Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores SA’s Porvenir pension fund, may have been intended to pressure the government into starting formal negotiations with the group, Santos said Friday, in a national address.

“These attacks seek to generate fear and terror,” Santos said. “The information we have at the moment suggests that the ELN were responsible.”

The government is in preliminary talks with the group, but hasn’t yet started formal negotiations. Santo’s administration has held peace talks with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in Cuba since 2012.

One of the blasts, three blocks from the stock exchange, left a street in the city’s financial district strewn with glass and debris. The pension fund branch received bomb warnings ahead of the blasts, Bogota government secretary Gloria Florez said.

Santos cut short a visit to a Pacific Alliance meeting that was taking place Thursday in Paracas, Peru with the presidents of Peru, Mexico and Chile.

Earlier this year, Bogota suffered a series of attacks with small explosive devices that police also blamed on the ELN. Aval is Colombia’s biggest banking group, controlled by Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, Colombia’s second-richest citizen.