Colombia ELN rebels call for three day curfew

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group said it would hold a three-day "armed strike" beginning Wednesday to protest against President Ivan Duque's social and economic policies, a move the government called an attempt to sow fear.

So-called armed strikes, enforced by rebels in areas where they operate, include restrictions on transport, curfews and shuttering of businesses.

"Against Duque and his bad government the National Liberation Army decrees an armed strike in all national territory," the ELN said in a statement dated Sunday on its website.

"The population can only mobilize for humanitarian reasons related to funeral activities or hospital emergencies. We recommend the population stay in its houses or places of work."

The threats are a bid by rebel leadership hiding out in Venezuela to sow fear, Defense Minister Diego Molano told journalists on Monday.

The Colombian government regularly accuses Venezuela's government of providing safe haven to armed groups, which Caracas denies.

"Our armed forces are fully deployed, with all their capacities, to guarantee mobility, the transport of Colombians and that Colombia does not kneel, does not get scared, does not double over in the face of some statements," Molano said.

Duque called off nascent peace talks with the ELN in 2019 after it bombed a police academy, killing more than 20 people.

The group, with some 2,350 combatants, is considered more radical and less centrally controlled than the FARC rebels, who inked a 2016 peace deal.

The ELN recently took responsibility for bombing a police station in the city of Cali, injuring more than a dozen officers, and is battling former FARC for control of drug trafficking routes along the Venezuelan border, according to security sources.

Colombians will go to the polls in mid-March to elect a new congress and vote in primaries for three political coalitions, ahead of a presidential vote in May.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Richard Chang)