ELN rebels announce three-day “armed strike” in Colombia

File photo. Guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN) rest in front of a house in the jungles of Chocó department, Colombia, August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Federico Rios

BOGOTÁ, Feb 21 (Reuters) – The leftist guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced that it will carry out a three-day “armed strike” in Colombia from Wednesday to protest against the government’s economic and social policies, unless three weeks of the legislative elections.

“Armed Strike” means restrictions on the free movement of vehicles and people, as well as on trade in rural areas where the ELN has a presence.

“Against Duque and his bad government, the National Liberation Army decrees an armed strike throughout the national territory. It will take place from 6:00 a.m. on February 23, until 6:00 a.m. on February 26, 2022,” said a statement from the rebel group released on social media.

“The population will only be able to mobilize for humanitarian reasons related to funeral activities or hospital emergencies. We recommend that the population stay in their homes or workplaces and avoid displacement for security reasons,” he added.

Defense Minister Diego Molano said that with the threats and pamphlets the ELN seeks to generate fear from Venezuela, where its leaders are hiding with the complacency of President Nicolás Maduro, who in the past has denied these accusations.

“Let Colombia be clear that our Public Force is fully deployed, with all its capabilities to guarantee the mobility, the transportation of Colombians and that Colombia is not going to kneel, or intimidate, or bow in front of some pamphlets,” declared the official.

Made up of some 2,350 fighters, the rebel group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The ELN, accused of financing itself from kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking and illegal mining, has failed in the search for a peace agreement due to its radical positions, a diffuse chain of command and dissent in its ranks.

The rebel group carried out high-impact actions, including an attack with explosives in the city of Cali that affected the police and others against the military in different areas of the country, such as the department of Norte de Santander, which has become a new epicenter of the armed conflict.

Colombians will go to the polls on March 13 to elect congressmen and will be able to participate in consultations with three political coalitions to choose their candidates for the presidential elections in May.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Javier López de Lérida)

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