The National Liberation Army (ELN) is calling for a national transit strike in Colombia Feb. 10-13.
A lead spokesperson for the ELN, Commandant Uriel, announced the four-day strike over his Twitter account to protest the “continued state terrorism and the escalated persecution of social movement leaders and … protests” in Colombia.
The Marxist guerrilla group also hopes the strike will convince the government to “resume the fifth round of talks in Quito” that President Manuel Santo suspended at the end of January.
Ceasefire talks between ELN and the Santos administration began a year ago. The two sides reached a 100-day agreement in September 2017 and the ELN laid down its arms.
ELN leaders and Gustavo Bell representing the government met in Quito, Ecuador Jan. 29 with the intent to enact a new ceasefire accord that had expired Jan. 10 until, a day into the meeting, Santos called Bell back to Bogota.
Santos sited an ELN-claimed attack in the port city of Barranqui that killed five police officers just as talks were starting, as a reason to cut short the government’s participation in the 5th round of talks.
The ELN, which formed in 1964, as well as Colombia’s other Marxist rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have consistently urged Santos to resume talks. The Catholic church in Colombia and United Nations officials in the country also say the government should re-engage the cease-fire talks with the ELN.
ELN commanders are ordering a ceasefire in the Choco department and western regions of Colombia as part of the strike and that all land, air, sea and river travel be suspended.
“We’re calling on all drivers and passengers to abstain from traveling to avoid any inconveniences,” read the ELN communique on Twitter.
The ELN says that the government isn’t doing enough to protect rural and indigenous social leaders in Colombia’s western regions where the ELN has traditionally protected rural populations and leaders from more nefarious organized crime groups.
Last month alone 27 social activists, half of them farmers and three of them women, were killed.