Colombia: riot police attack student protesters

In a dawn raid on Oct. 8, the Colombian National Police special Mobile Anti-disturbance Squad (ESMAD) stormed the Technological University of Choc贸 in the departmental capital of Quibd贸, using tear gas to evict students had had been occupying the campus. Several students were injured, and one, Edwin C贸rdoba, is in critical condition at the city’s hospital. Organizers say 12 students were arrested and two have been “disappeared.” Students are continuing to demonstrate in front the university. 

The campus had been occupied for 40 days in a protest led by the Broad Student Table of Choc贸 (MAE), to demand subsidies for transportation, a university food facility, and a photocopy center to offset the high costs of books and literature in Colombia. MAE says these demands are the minimum that will allow most students to even graduate. More than half the city’s residents are Afro-Colombians who were forcibly displaced from their land by paramilitaries and agro-industrial interests; most residents do not receive even basic government services and the majority do not have access to potable water. The students are also demanding the resignation of the university president, Eduardo Antonio Garc铆a Vega, who has run the university for over 12 years and has refused to negotiate with the MAE.

The students have also met with armed terror, by presumed right-wing paramilitaries. Two days before the ESMAD assault, two MAE organizers were shot at by a gunman on a motorcycle on the street in the city, leaving one of the students wounded. The same day, another student leader received a death threat.

In subsequent days, ESMAD troops were dispatched into the streets of Bogot谩 as students and youth mobilized in a “Week of Indignation,” expressing solidarity with the student struggle in Choc贸 and pressing their own demands for access to education, healthcare and work. Numerous protesters were injured and some 15 detained in street clashes in the working-class south of the city. (Prensa Universidad, Oct. 13; NYC Indymedia, Radio Caracol, Oct. 8)