The Spanish anarchist website A Las Barricadas reports that Nicolás Neira Alvarez, a 15-year-old student who was marching with an anarchist contingent May 1 in Bogota when it was attacked by the riot police, has died of injuries sustained that day. Nicolas died on the sixth in the hospital, after five days in a coma. Apparently the target of the police attack–with tear gas and savage beatings–was the contingent of the Polo Democratico, a left-opposition party to which Bogota’s Mayor Lucho Garzon belongs. Since the police are controlled by the national government in Colombia, this may be hardline President Alvaro Uribe’s way of sending a message to the populist mayor. This was the second Mayday since Garzon took office, and the second to see harsh police violence. (See WW4 REPORT #93)
The special police unit involved in the incident, the Metropolitan Anti-Disturbance Security Corps (SMAD), also brutally attacked marchers at the Medellin Mayday celebration last year, resulting in several injured, as we reported at the time.
See our last post on Colombia.
In a May 7 interview with Bogota’s Radio Caracol, Yuri Neira, Nicolas’ father, reported receiving incessant questioning telephone calls in a “menacing tone” from the police in the days after his son’s death. He protested that there had still been no official pronouncement on the incident from the authorities. He also claimed his son had not participated in the march, but had only gone out to purchase a book. The story rendered the name of the unit in question as the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD). A report from the human rights group Red de Defensores (Defenders Network) said the phone calls came from the National Police Anti-Corruption Group. The report also said the agents who beat Nicolas had their faces covered with ski masks.
In another case of ESMAD intimidation of protesters, the Medellin anti-militarist group Red Juvenil (Youth Network) reports via Colombia Indymedia that at a May 14 concert the group held at the city’s Boston Park featuring local punk, hip-hop, metal and reggea bands in a celebartion of International Conscientious Objection Day (actually the 15th), an ESMAD contingent arrived in two armored vehicles and drove into the crowd, sparking a brief fracas. Red Juvenil activists appealed for calm from the stage, and after a few minutes the vehicles withdrew.