Monday, September 25, 2023

Protests leave 42 dead in a Colombia in ‘shock’ by the repression

Complaints about police excesses are at the center of social unrest

QCOLOMBIA – At least 42 people, including a uniformed police, have died in Colombia in the framework of protests against the government that exploded on April 28 and led to a severe crisis due to the internationally condemned repression.

A protester throws a tear gas canister at riot police officers during an anti-government protest in Cali, Colombia, on May 10, 2021. Photo: AFP

The Ombudsman’s Office, which oversees human rights, adjusted upwards the previous balance of 27 fatalities. According to the entity, “41 civilians” and “a member of the fuerza pública (police)” died in these days of mobilization.

For its part, the Ministry of Defense maintains that to date there are 849 police officers injured, 12 by projectiles. It also counted 716 civilians wounded, without specifying how many by bullets.

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The figures make the protests by far the bloodiest under the government of Iván Duque, who already experienced mass marches in 2019 as president and the mobilization against police brutality in 2020.

They also mark a precedent in a country impoverished by the pandemic and that did not manage to extinguish its prolonged internal conflict, despite having signed peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016 after decades of fighting the extinct guerrilla.

The Ombudsman’s Office has a victim report that is close to that of the Temblores and Indepaz organizations, which account for 47 fatalities. According to these organizations, “39 of them for police violence.”

Colombians return to the streets to protest against Iván Duque


The complaints about police excesses – fueled by a cascade of videos that point to the alleged responsibility of uniformed men – are at the center of social unrest.

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On Monday, a first dialogue between the government and the most visible group of protesters failed, to defuse the crisis that began with the rejection in the streets of a government project that sought to raise taxes and face the ravages of the pandemic, which leaves almost 79,000 dead.

Duque “was complacent with the excessive use of public force,” lamented student leader Jennifer Pedraza, before calling for new mobilizations for this Wednesday.

The Central Unitaria de Trabajadores asked to protest “massively” in the streets against police brutality and not to make financial transactions that day.
(Video) Thirteen days of protest leave 42 dead in Colombia

The reaction of the police forces fueled popular anger and today Colombia faces several sources of protest that demand a change in the country’s leadership in the face of the increase in poverty, which punishes 42.5% of the population, inequality, and corruption. and the return of violence after the peace pact.

This Tuesday, the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, assured on W Radio that “police abuses” not only “have been condemned but are already being prosecuted.”

On Monday the Police announced the suspension of five troops and 62 ongoing investigations

Protesters clash with riot police officers during an anti-government protest in Cali, Colombia, on May 10, 2021. Photo: AFP
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for alleged abuses committed during the demonstrations.

Ceballos insisted on pointing out equally the “abuses of citizens who hurt other citizens” and “the public force.”

Along with the daily marches – which usually end in clashes with the riot police – protesters block cities, such as Cali, where scenes of shortages and garbage accumulation are already recorded.

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