The protest wave in Colombia was revived with a national mobilization Jan. 21, to be again met with repression from the security forces. Protest organizers explicitly rejected violence, but police and gangs of masked men sabotaged efforts by municipal authorities to maintain the peace in the country’s two biggest cities. In both Bogotá and Medellín, the progressive mayors who defeated President Ivan Duque‘s far-right Democratic Center party in local elections last year had adopted protocols to prevent police attacks on peaceful protesters. Human rights defenders in Bogota said that the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD, ignored protocols put in place by Mayor Claudia Lopez and attacked protesters without first attempting mediation. Some 90 were arrested and several injured in the capital, including at the central Bolivar Square, where ESMAD troops attempted to block marchers from entering. Presumed provocateurs also sparked clashes elsewhere in the city.
In Medellín, activists similarly charged that police ignored protocols adopted by Mayor Daniel Quintero to prevent attacks on protesters. ESMAD troops reportedly threw a tear-gas canister into a bar where protesters had gathered to take shelter from a sudden downpour. At nearby Parque del Poblado, masked provocateurs began attacking police and a local bank. Police attacked the main protester ranks despite chants of “los capuchos no nos representan”(the masked guys do not represent us).
in a repeat of a strategy also seen in last November’s protests, police raided the homes of two Bogotá activists the night before the mobilization. “We believe they are fabricating false judicial positives, as occurred days before the first day of mobilizations last year,” Isabel Fajardo of the Popular Human Rights Network (REDHUS) told Contagio Radio. (Colombia Reports, El Tiempo, Bogotá, El País, Cali, Jan. 21)
Photo via Colombia Reports