On the second day of their three-day attempt to shut down the country, guerrillas injured a bus driver and allegedly killed at least one soldier on Saturday.
The soldier was killed by a sniper allegedly belonging to the ELN in the northeastern Catatumbo region.
According to local media, the bus driver was injured when the rebels began setting fire to the vehicle while he was letting passengers off the bus on the highway connecting the capital Bogota to the Caribbean coast.
The incident took place close to where the ELN rebels injured at least five policemen in a shootout in the Cesar province on Friday.
Locals from Curumani, also in Cesar, reported two explosions behind the local police station in a presumed ELN attack. No injuries were reported.
Attacks on police stations were also reported in Fortul and Arauquita, two towns in Arauca where the guerrilla has a strong presence.
Public life in guerrilla-controlled regions throughout Colombia has come to a halt. Entire cities have turned into ghost towns as nobody dares to defy the guerrilla order to stay inside.
— Mónica Ramos (@RamosMonica8) February 16, 2020
Multiple residents and local media from guerrilla-controlled territories have said that also the police are obeying guerrilla orders not to go out in the street.
Duque announces “spiritual retreat” in midst of guerrilla assault
In a jaw-dropping turn of events, the President’s Office told media on Friday that President Ivan Duque will be on a “spiritual retreat” from Sunday until Monday instead of attending the security crisis.
At the presidential holiday home in Hato Grande, Cundinamarca, Duque and some of his ministers “will evaluate the achievements of the first 18 months of management and review the National Government’s targets for 2020,” according to the president’s website.
Duque has avoided the press like the plague since Friday, the first day of the national strike.
Instead of the commander-in-chief, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has been in charge of the security forces’ response to the guerrilla assaults from the military headquarters in the capital Bogota.
“May God protect us”
Reliable reports of the ELN’s “armed strike” are difficult to obtain as guerrillas have not just threatened transport companies and shops, but also at least one local journalist who was forced to flee from his home town Arauca to Bogota.
National media are largely ignoring the terror campaign that is mainly affecting residents of rural areas that have historically been neglected by the state.
No one is talking about the armed strike in Colombia. The media have said little. In Curumani the tension is terrible. People are locked up. There is a lot of fear here in the village. Armed men ordered all commercial establishments to be closed and informed all the people to lock themselves in and that nobody was allowed outside. About 20 minutes ago there were two loud explosions, they threw two grenades at the police station. Everyone please be very careful. May God protect us in times like this.
While the president is enjoying his spiritual retreat and security forces seem powerless, residents in ELN-controlled territory will have to endure the guerrilla terror until Monday 6AM when the armed strike is lifted.