Transport companies halted operations between Medellin and the western Colombian state of Choco for Tuesday after the country’s second largest leftist rebel group, the ELN, had ordered a shutdown of operations on that day.
The ELN threats have led some local transport companies to temporarily suspend working on these routes in fear of damage to their vehicles and endangering the lives of employees.
“We are in total shut-down. There is complete chaos because the fear of losing vehicles and perhaps being physically harmed is stopping people from going to the places where we normally conduct our business,” a local transport operator told Blu Radio.
Travel company Rapido Ochoa has suspended buses from Medellin to Choco capital city, Quibdo since the threats were made on November 22 and many other bus and freight companies seem to be following suit.
The mayor of Carmen de Atrato, a Choco municipality bordering the Antioquia state and on the main route between Quibdo and Medellin reported an almost total shutdown of traffic between the two cities.
Mayor Alexander Echavarria said that “it is remarkable how much activities have ceased. You can not see heavy goods freight vehicles or passenger buses in any directions.”
As of Tuesday, there have been no change to air travel in and out of Choco and services appear to be running smoothly.
Army officials have been quick to assure locals that there have been no recorded incidents on any major routes out of the coastal department, but road blocks have been opened and military levels increased in the area to combat any acts of insurgency.
“The Armed Forces and National Police are conducting military operations to control the area, to ensure the free movement and integrity of the inhabitants of the department of Choco,” the military said in a press statement.
“The National Army once again condemns this intimidating action that threatens the fundamental rights of citizens. This is a serious violation of human rights, since they endanger the lives and safety of civilians, and in this particular case, the productive population of the department of Choco.”
In a five point statement released online, the army condemned ELN threats and urged citizens not to be intimidated. However, few people have taken the army’s advice to heart.