Amid the escalation of violence, Colombia sends troops

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On Friday, the southern metropolis of Cali witnessed new scenes of panic as a number of folks in civilian garments appeared to open fireplace on the protesters, social media footage reveals. Later the Lawyer Common of Colombia Francisco Barbosa confirmed that one of many shooters was an off-duty worker of his workplace’s investigation unit. Preliminary investigations recommend the person killed two protesters earlier than the encircling mob lynched him, Barbosa mentioned. Footage of the person crushed to dying went viral on Colombian social media.
In one other incident, a civilian was photographed pointing a gun at protesters as he stood subsequent to uniformed policemen who had not intervened. The person, Andres Escobar, later posted a video on social media saying he was firing non-lethal rubber bullets and asking forgiveness for his actions. In an interview with native radio station BluRadio, Escobar mentioned he was pressured into motion by seeing “vandals” rampaging in his neighborhood, and he did not intend to kill anybody.
The director of the Colombian police Jorge Vargas Valencia has announced his workplace is investigating the incident.
In Cali alone, a minimum of 13 folks have been killed over the weekend, in keeping with the Colombian Protection Ministry. In response to the escalation of violence throughout the nation, President Ivan Duque has deployed the military in 13 cities to bolster native police. Protection Minister Diego Molano additionally posted a video of 500 infantry touring to Cali, with triumphant music.

Duque mentioned he was pressured to ship the army to take away dozens of roadblocks from protesters which have introduced the nation to a standstill since early Might, however critics and a few analysts see the deployment as a dangerous gamble set so as to add gasoline to the fireplace.

Troopers in entrance of the protesters

“Having extra safety forces on the streets is just not a step in the direction of peace,” mentioned Sebastian Lanz of Temblores, a Colombian NGO specializing in documenting police violence. His group has recognized over 3,400 circumstances of police abuse in coping with protesters, he says.

Lanz says dialogue and peaceable battle decision must be given precedence as a method of easing the scenario whereas respecting the appropriate of civilians to protest. “We ask ourselves, is that this deployment of troopers actually supposed to pacify town or to intimidate and restrict the rights of protesters?” He mentioned.

The Colombian authorities disputes Temblores’ figures, however it’s tough to disclaim the heavy hand employed by some Colombian safety forces. Police Inspector Common Jorge Luis Ramirez mentioned Monday that his workplace is investigating 170 circumstances of police abuse. Eleven of those circumstances are immediately linked to the homicide of demonstrators by the hands of law enforcement officials.

Including lively troopers to the combo might improve the chance of deadly encounters in in any other case peaceable protests, warns Juan Carlos Ruiz, professor of political science at Bogota’s Universidad del Rosario.

“Getting the army to run a protest is just not one of the best thought,” he instructed CNN. “Even the riot police, with all the problems and incidents which were concerned within the protest up to now, are a minimum of a physique of educated professionals who focus on coping with protesters. A soldier is just not educated in battle decision: I’m educated to kill. “

On the identical time, Ruiz says the federal government’s resolution so as to add army power appeared “inevitable” given the harm roadblocks trigger to a Colombian economic system already battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colombia suffers from continual infrastructure issues and is closely depending on street transport between ports and huge cities. One of many protesters’ handiest instruments final month was to dam main highways round Cali and different massive city areas to place stress on the federal government by successfully freezing commerce. Prior to now month, shortages of gas and primary requirements have been reported in Cali and the encircling area, and the federal government says roadblocks they are also hampering its Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
Roadblocks are a delicate level of debate in ongoing negotiations between the federal government and the Nationwide Strike Committee of Colombia, a corporation of staff’ unions and civic associations that’s establish the agenda of the protests. Protesters see the roadblock as a official tactic, whereas the federal government desires to clear the streets as rapidly as attainable and guarantees zero tolerance for the protesters in between.

The negotiations, that are nonetheless ongoing, have up to now didn’t ship concrete outcomes and the stress continues to develop.

The view from Washington

All through its historical past, the Colombian army has acquired vital help from the USA, which has funded coaching and gear to empower Colombian troopers within the struggle towards guerrilla and drug trafficking organizations. Simply final yr, the USA shelved $ 267 million for safety help in Colombia.
Ruiz, the political scientist, tells CNN that Duque must be cautious how he deploys his troops now. The picture of Colombian troopers concerned in cracking down on protesters could also be exhausting to digest not solely in Bogota, but in addition in Washington, the place greater than 50 US lawmakers final month asked for assistance to be stopped to the Colombian police till the allegations of human rights violations have been clarified.
Second Amnesty International, US-supplied weapons to the Colombian police have already been linked to human rights violations.

“Secretary (of State) Blinken has the facility to cease the worry and terror that Colombian protesters are enduring, and he should achieve this instantly,” mentioned Philippe Nassif, director of advocacy at Amnesty Worldwide USA, becoming a member of requires a fast suspension of arms help to the Colombian police.

CNN requested the US State Division for remark.

This weekend, Colombian Vice President and International Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez traveled to Washington to fulfill Blinken. Whereas Blinken affirmed shut ties between the 2 nations, he additionally “reaffirmed the indeniable proper of residents to protest peacefully,” in keeping with a State Department reading.

Lasting penalties

In issuing the decree on Friday authorizing army help to the police in entrance of demonstrators, Duque careworn that it was a brief resolution. The troopers could be withdrawn as quickly because the scenario returned to calm, he mentioned.

The protests of Colombia, explained

However Lanz, of the NGO Temblores, warns that the implications of this resolution might final for much longer. “What we’re seeing right here is that the safety forces are claiming territorial management of the general public house,” he mentioned.

“On account of Covid-19 and the blockades, we have now misplaced the appropriate to a shared public house the place everybody may very well be free. On the one hand there are protesters who’re claiming that house for themselves, however on the opposite the federal government is sending the military preventing for management. It’s a territorial struggle and it’ll not finish quickly, “he added.

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