Colombia’s President Ivan Duque warned ELN rebels that “Colombia is stronger than ever” on Wednesday while being scorned for using the presidential aircraft for his daughter’s birthday party over the weekend.
The president did not announce exact measures to counter the impending showdown with the 55-year-old guerrilla group, who announced a national transport shutdown between 6AM on Friday until 6AM on Monday.
Duque super busy with birthday parties
While the rebels were preparing to disrupt the country’s economy as much as possible, Duque and his propaganda chief were busy dealing with the fall-out of the president’s frivolous use of public funds.
The presidential guard claimed on Tuesday that Duque “has been austere” while his new propaganda chief embarked on a hysterical fight with right-wing pundit Vicky Davila in a live broadcast over the president’s use of public funds to organize children’s parties.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo did address the ELN’s announced “armed strike” on Wednesday, claiming “all military are at the highest state of alert” without providing any details.
Duque followed, claiming that “today more than ever we are strong as a nation and strong as a democracy.”
“Would there be anyone taking you seriously, fatso?” one Twitter user responded in a flurry of insults.
Local and regional authorities taking the lead
While the president was preparing children’s parties and one-liners, local and regional authorities took the lead to try to prevent the ELN from shutting down key infrastructure.
Residents in guerrilla-controlled territory began stockpiling food supplies.
In the surrounding Antioquia province, regional police said they will increase the number of troops in the vicinity of the highway connecting Medellin with the Caribbean coast that crossed ELN territory.
Authorities in the southwest of Colombia, where guerrillas in the past have bombed the Pan-American highway connecting the west of Colombia with Ecuador, also increased the number of troops in the vicinity of the highway.
In eastern Colombia, where the ELN is strongest, Cucuta mayor called an emergency security council after alleged guerrillas had burned a bus inside the city’s urban area.
In the Catatumbo region, locals reported that “while Mr. Ivan Duque is organizing parties with the presidential aircraft and the defense minister is busy to provide protection to politicians close to power, people in Catatumbo are living in terror and despair over the situation. What a pathetic government.”