Colombia sent army amid rising violence

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Social media footage shows new scenes of panic seen in the southern city of Cali on Friday, when several people in civilian clothes appeared to be firing bullets against the protesters. Columbia Attorney General Francisco Barbosa later Confirmed That one of the shooters was an off-duty employee of the investigative unit of his office. Barbosa said preliminary investigations suggest that the man killed two protesters before a nearby mob killed him. Footage of a man who was beaten to death on Colombia’s social media has gone viral.
In another episode, a civilian was photographed while standing next to uniformed police officers with their guns towards the protesters, who did not interfere. The man, Andres Escobar, later published a video On social media Saying that he was firing non-lethal rubber bullets and apologizing for his actions. In an interview with local radio station BlueRadio, Escobar said he was motivated to take action by observing wild “crooks” in his neighborhood, and did not intend to kill anyone.
Colombian Police Director George Vargas Valencia Announced His office is investigating the incident.
According to Colombia’s Ministry of Defense, at least 13 people died over the weekend in Cali alone. In response to growing violence across the country, President Evan Duke has deployed forces to thirteen cities to reinforce local police. Defense Minister Diego Molano also posted a video 500 foot soldiers On the way to Cali, ready for victorious music.

Duke said he was motivated to send troops to lift dozens of protesting barriers, which has brought the country to a standstill since early May – but critics and some analysts have called for the deployment to add fuel to the fire. Is considered a risky bet.

Soldiers facing protesters

“Having more security forces on the streets is not a step in the direction of peace,” said Sebastian Lanz of the Colombian NGO Temblores, documenting police violence. He says his organization has identified more than 3400 cases of police misconduct in dealing with protesters.

Lanz states that peaceful resolution of conflicts should be given priority as a means of mitigating the situation while respecting the right of citizens to protest. “We ask ourselves, is this deployment of troops really meant to pacify the city, or is it to intimidate and limit the rights of protesters?” he said.

Colombia’s government disputes the Temblores’ data, but it is difficult to deny the hefty actions employed by some Colombian security forces. On Monday, Inspector General of Police Jorge Luis Ramirez said his office is investigating 170 cases of misconduct by police. Eleven of these cases are directly related to the killing of protesters at the hands of policemen.

Juan Carlos Ruiz, professor of political science at the Universidad del Rosario of Bogot√°, warned that adding active troops to the mix could increase the risk of fatal encounters in otherwise peaceful protests.

“It is not the best idea to handle a military protest rally,” he told CNN. “Even with anti-riot police, all the issues and incidents they have been involved in protests so far, at least they are a body of professionals trained in dealing with protesters. A soldier not trained in conflict resolution Mune: They are trained to kill. “

At the same time, Ruiz says the government’s decision to add military muscle seemed “inevitable”, given the damage already done to the Colombian economy by the Kovid-19 epidemic.

Colombia suffers from chronic infrastructure problems and is heavily dependent on road transport between ports and major cities. One of the most effective means of protesters in the last month has been the blocking of major highways around Cali and other major urban areas to pressure the government by effectively stopping commerce. In the past month, fuel and basic goods shortages have been reported in Cali and the surrounding area, and the government says the hurdles Its Kovid-19 vaccination campaigns are also coming in the way.
Constraints in the ongoing dialogue between the government and Colombia’s National Strike Committee, an association of labor unions and civil unions, are a sensitive point of discussion. Setting the agenda for protest. The protesters see roadblocking as a legitimate strategy, while the government wants to clean the roads as soon as possible and is promising zero tolerance for the protesters on the way.

Negotiations, still ongoing, have so far failed to produce tangible results and tensions continue to escalate.

View from washington

Throughout its history, the Colombian military has received substantial assistance from the United States, which has funded training and equipment to empower Colombian soldiers in the fight against guerrillas and drug-trafficking organizations. Just last year, America determined $ 267 million For security assistance to Colombia.
Political scientist Ruiz told CNN that Duke should be careful about how he now deploys his troops. Not only in Bogota, but also in Washington, where last month more than 50 US lawmakers may find it difficult to image the image of Colombian soldiers involved in suppressing protesters Called upon to stop aid Until the Colombian police was released from allegations of human rights abuses.
According to Amnesty International, The weapons provided by the US to the Colombian police have already been linked to human rights violations.

Amnesty International USA Advocacy Director Philip Nassif called for immediate suspension, saying “Secretary (of the state) Blinken has the power to curb the fear and terror of Colombian protesters, and they should do so immediately.” Assistance to the Colombian Police concerning weapons.

CNN has requested comment from the US State Department.

This weekend, Colombia’s Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez traveled to Washington to meet Blinken. While Blinken confirmed the close ties between the two countries, he also “reiterated the undisputed right of citizens to protest peacefully,” according to A State Department readout.

Long lasting results

Issuing a decree on Friday that authorized military assistance to the police facing the protesters, Duke insisted it was a temporary decision. He said that the troops would be withdrawn as soon as the situation calmed down.

Columbia opposed, explained

But Lanz of the NGO Temblores warned that the consequences of this decision could last too long. “What we are seeing here is that security forces are reclaiming territorial control of public space,” he said.

“Due to the Kovid-19 and lockdown, we lost the right to a shared public space where everyone can be free. On the one hand you have protesters who are reclaiming that place for themselves, but on the other side the government forces. Sending. Fight for control. This is a regional battle, and it won’t end soon. “

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