On the night of Oct. 18, or the early hours of Oct. 19, suspected hired killers shot to death university student leader Milton Hernan Troyano Sanchez in Mosquera park in the city of Popayan, capital of the southwestern Colombian department of Cauca. Troyano was in his last semester as a biology student at the University of Cauca (Unicauca); he had been active since 2004 in campaigns defending public education and university democracy, and against authoritarianism and repression. (Message from Dora Troyano on Colombia Indymedia, Oct. 19; Joint Communique from 13 student committees and associations at Unicauca, Oct. 23)
On Oct. 26, agents of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police attacked Unicauca students and teachers participating in a torchlight march in Popayan. The march was called to protest Troyano’s murder and other recent acts of persecution and intimidation against the university community. The marchers had informed police in advance of their route, which led from Unicauca’s science department past the Mosquera park to the center of Popayan. But police, soldiers and ESMAD agents harassed and provoked the marchers along the route, and near the end of the march they fired tear gas grenades at marchers from point-blank range, beat them with billy clubs and arbitrarily detained a number of people. Agents even pulled students from buses and taxis to detain them. Journalist Gustavo Molina of the CM& news agency was injured when an ESMAD agent fired a tear gas canister at him from point blank range. Students also noted that a number of infiltrators were taking photographs at the march, and individuals on motorcycles and in vehicles with polarized windows were apparently conducting surveillance operations.
Some 100 students sought refuge from the police onslaught in the university’s humanities department, but the rector, Danilo Reynaldo Vivas Ramos, claimed they were engaging in an occupation of the building and allowed police to enter. The students were then subjected to more police harassment and attacks as they tried to return to their homes.
A total of 15 students–eight of them from Unicauca and the rest from public high schools and technical institutes–remained detained as of Oct. 27. The detainees had been told they would be released that morning, but instead they were taken in armored vehicles to the Judicial Investigations and Intelligence Service (SIJIN) of the National Police, where they were charged.
(Messages from “Del Pueblo,” Oct. 27 on Colombia Indymedia)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 29
See our last post on Colombia and ESMAD terror.