The Colombian terrorist group National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) announced the start of a three-day “armed strike” today in what they allege is a protest against government social and economic policies. In reality, this is nothing more than a move to stoke chaos and conflict among the people of Colombia.
In a February 20 statement, the ELN declared a countywide strike, recommending that citizens stay at home or at work and only move around for humanitarian reasons or hospital emergencies.
Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano was quick to condemn the threat, telling journalists the following day that this was just another attempt by the ELN to sow fear, and urged Colombians to remain calm.
“Our Public Force is fully deployed, with all its capacities, to guarantee mobility, the transport of Colombians […]; Colombia will not kneel, nor get intimidated, nor bow down in the face of some pamphlets,” Molano said.
Army General Luis Fernando Navarro Jiménez, commander of the Colombian Military Forces, has estimated that around 1,200 members of the ELN are hiding out in refuge along Venezuelan border cities. From that safe haven, the rebel group conducts various forms of illicit activities, including drug trafficking, gasoline smuggling, mining, extortion, and operations in coca-growing enclaves.
With some 2,350 combatants, the group is considered more radical and less centrally controlled than the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, whose members inked a 2016 peace deal, Reuters reported on February 21.