The Protests In Colombia Mark a Month With Hundreds Of Injured And Missing

The streets and squares of Colombia have been filled again this Friday with protesters when the month has passed since the protests began due to the social and political discontent of a large part of the population, a day that was once again colored by violence and at least three dead in the city of Cali.

While in many parts of the country the sixth day of the national strike passed without incident and in a festive manner, with concerts, dances and the usual harangues, in Cali, which has become the epicenter of this first month of protests, violence has once again taken over some streets .

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“This situation has occurred among those who blockade and among those who wanted to pass,” reports Jorge Iván Ospina, mayor of Cali, Colombia’s third most important city, when referring to the three civilians killed today. The crimes were committed in the La Luna sector, in the center of the city, and one of the places where the scenes of greatest violence have been experienced in recent weeks.

A member of the “First Line”, as the young people who stand with shields in front of the mobilizations are known, told the media that a man who was prevented from passing at a blockade point took out a weapon and began to shoot at those who were there. This sparked a confrontation in which, according to the witness, the man, who was a member of the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of the Prosecutor’s Office, continued firing while the other people who were there threw stones at him and beat him to the end of his life. .

“It was an official attached to the CTI who, according to the information collected so far, shot at several people causing the death of some civilians,” explains the attorney general, Francisco Barbosa, who confirms that the aggressor, named Fredy Bermúdez Ortiz, he was not on duty today. Some people have denounced that pamphlets have been circulating in Cali for several days accusing those who block the routes of being members of the FARC dissidents and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) or the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) , and they are given 48 hours “to leave their ranks.”

In addition to including various proper names, the pamphlets threaten university students, the indigenous population, human rights defenders and left-wing unions, declaring them a “military target” and claiming that they “will pay for their actions.” It is not the first time that there have been clashes between civilians in the protests, since on May 9, several people attacked indigenous people in a neighborhood of Cali, claiming that they were looting homes, leaving eight injured.

Several armed men also fired at protesters from a vehicle in the city of Pereira on May 5, killing the young Lucas Villa and injuring two more. According to the NGO Temblores and the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz), there have been 60 deaths in the framework of the protests, of which 43 are attributed to the public force.

There have also been clashes between protesters and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) in the town of Madrid (Cundinamarca), leaving several wounded, and in Popayán, in the south, where hooded men threw incendiary bombs against the Mayor’s Office. These riots collide with the festivity that has reigned in the various calls in Bogotá.

The National Park, one of the meeting points of the protests in the capital, was filled with music in a concert by the artists Doctor Krápula and Adriana Lucía, with a thousand people chanting “Why are they assassinating us if we are the hope of Latin America?”. “Music, in a social protest like this, is healing, conciliatory, it is also combative and invites people not to resign,” says Mario Muñoz, singer of Doctor Krápula.

“The people who are going out to march are people who are tired, working people, they are mothers, they are children, they are brothers tired of an adverse situation where there are no guarantees of education, health and where money is invested in weapons,” he adds the musician, who sums up the moment as “a social bomb that we have been experiencing for a long time.”

The protests began on April 28 against the now-defunct tax reform, but continued with countless demands such as ending police violence, sexist or social leader murders, poverty and the need for a minimum income.

During the first two weeks, the crowds took to the central streets, but in recent days the protests have moved to more popular neighborhoods such as Portal de las Américas in Bogotá or Siloé in Cali, the hardest hit by inequality and the economic effects of the pandemic.

In Colombia there is a “malaise because the old ghosts of the past are reviving: drug trafficking, violence, forced displacement, partisan violence … everything that we thought was overcome is reviving,” said Miguel Ángel Espinosa, a young protester, who was marching in Bogotá with a banner calling for less hunger and more education.

“We need a new Colombia and we need people to notice our message,” added the young man who, like many others, is not represented in the government’s conversations with “the old men” of the National Unemployment Committee. The NGOs that denounce violence by the public forces assure that there are 866 people injured, 51 of them with eye injuries and 70 due to firearms. There are also hundreds of disappeared, the Ombudsman’s Office has active 123 searches for people, but organizations such as the Coordination Colombia Europe United States assures that 327 remain to be found.

Several photographers who were covering the demonstrations on Friday in Colombia, including one from the Efe Agency, were attacked by the police and by civilians while carrying out their work in different cities of the country, according to press organizations.

During the demonstrations, the Foundation for the Freedom of the Press has documented 179 attacks against journalists, of which 64 were physical, 34 threats, 15 obstructions to work, 12 robberies and removal of material, 11 harassment, six illegal detentions, seven denials of access to information and 11 arbitrary actions on social networks. “These unprecedented figures show the inability of the government to guarantee the press the necessary security conditions to cover it,” said FLIP.

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