Colombian oil pipeline Cano Limon remains closed after latest attack

BOGOTA (Reuters) - No oil has been pumped through the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline, Colombia’s second largest, for 38 days due to repeated attacks by Marxist ELN rebels, military sources and Ecopetrol said on Friday after the latest raid.

The attack on Thursday caused an oil spill near the municipality of Toledo, in Norte de Santander province, close to the border with Venezuela.

The 485-mile-long (780-km) pipeline has been attacked 12 times this year by the National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest active guerrilla group, according to military sources.

Although this is one of the most extensive paralyses since the pipeline opened in the mid-1980s, activity in the Cano Limon field, operated by Occidental Petroleum Corp and located in the northern Arauca province, has not been affected.

Oil from the field is being moved along another pipeline, Ecopetrol said.

Attacks by the ELN are frequent as they seek to pressure the government as part of their 53-year conflict.

The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, has about 2,000 combatants and opposes the presence of multinational companies in the mining and oil sector, claiming that they seize natural resources without benefiting the country’s population or economy.

President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN launched formal peace negotiations in Ecuador a year ago, but the group has stepped up its attacks since a ceasefire ended in early January.

The government suspended talks last month when the rebels launched a series of deadly attacks against police.

Santos in late 2016 signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending its part in the five-decade conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Phil Berlowitz