Two protesters have died within 48 hours during protests in Colombia, which has seen a wave of popular discontent for nearly two months.
On Tuesday evening (22), a young man died of a head trauma after clashes with police at a transport station in the Suba neighborhood of Bogotá. Another 32-year-old protester died on Monday (21), also in the capital, but there are no details on the case.
Protesters who were with the young man – whose name has not been released – allege the injury was caused by a tear gas capsule thrown by riot police. Bogotá Metropolitan Police Commander General Óscar Gómez Heredia said it was not possible to determine whether the object was thrown by agents of Esmad, the Colombian police riot battalion. .
According to the civil authorities and the Office of the Public Defender, the protests have already killed 63 people, including two victims of the police.
On a social network, the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, said the Colombian police must be reformed. “Police must comply with the Constitution and social sectors, and politicians must commit to condemning, not promoting and preventing all forms of social and political violence,” he said. “Young people cannot continue to be victims of police abuse and political radicalism.”
The country’s president, Iván Duque, has already announced a package of measures to modernize the defense ministry and promote the “global transformation” of the police.
In social media posts, Duque promised the creation of a new disciplinary statute and a new system for receiving complaints and charges to “achieve excellence” in police work. Without giving details, the president also said that “professional standards on issues such as the use of force, human rights, service to citizens and police procedures” will be implemented.
The changes also included a review of protocols for “legitimate use of force” – something that had been questioned by protesters and human rights organizations, who saw excesses in the conduct of displaced agents. to curb protests.
The Defense portfolio itself will change its name and become the Ministry of National Defense and Citizen Security. In addition, Colombian police officers will receive a new uniform, in blue, which, according to Duque, “conveys empathy, courtesy, tranquility and confidence to the citizens”.
The police response to the protests has been the target of recurring international criticism, and the UN, the United States, the European Union and international NGOs have already denounced the excesses committed by the public forces.
A report released on June 9 by the independent organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that Colombian police acted abusively in suppressing protests in the country, “for the most part peaceful.” The document features accounts of episodes in which police murdered and sexually assaulted protesters.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also in the country to investigate the complaints. After the visit, the government pledged to investigate 21 killings that took place during the protests.
Demonstrations took place daily, some days more intense than others. Initially, the acts were against the tax reform proposed by President Duque. Although he withdrew the bill, the violent crackdown on protests continued to fuel discontent.
Since then, actions have multiplied, without a defined agenda or direction, but with demands calling for a more just country and a more united State, guarantor of life and security.
The country’s National Strike Committee even announced on June 15 the suspension of acts, which did not mean the end of the mobilizations, because the organization does not represent all those who take to the streets.