Violence and chaos that has engulfed the South American nation of Colombia in recent days continues “out of control,” according to a Facebook posting by Colombian television journalist Ignacio Romero.
A wave of violence in Colombia during recent days has drawn the attention of international human rights organizations. The UN and the European Union have condemned police brutality in the country and have asked that authorities responsible for the forcible repression of peaceful protests be held responsible for their actions. Up to the time of this report there have been 20 killed, 87 people arereported missing, and more than 800 wounded since nationwide protests began last Wednesday against a “tax reform” measure that Colombian President Iván Duque wanted to impose at the same time that the country is confronting the pandemic.
In spite of the fact that the Duque government has since decided to cancel the measure being protested, people’s anger has not cooled, especially in the city of Cali, where most of the reported deaths have occurred. There, confrontations between police and demonstrators continued last night, with armored vehicles and helicopters reportedly dispersing angry crowds with tear gas and live gunfire.
According to Colombian media sources, local criminal gangs took advantage of the chaos to stage armed gang-fights. Meanwhile, demonstrators erected roadblocks on the main highways into and out of the city of Cali, and the municipal airport was clogged with thousands of people trying to come into or leave the city. Supermarket shelves are empty. Authorities are reportedly opening “corridors” to allow the city of 2.2 million people to receive emergency supplies of gasoline, medicines and food. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of chickens that had not been fed for three days were released from “factory farms” and are now wandering city streets.
The UN Office for Human Rights explained that their personnel on the ground in Colombia have witnessed “an excessive use of force on the part of the police.” UN observers reported that police were firing on crowds with live ammunition,and were beating unarmed demonstrators. On the other hand, a press report released by the Cali police stated that many of the participants in the demonstrations had become violent. According to police, “The mostly peaceful protests have occasionally degenerated into acts of vandalism.” Authorities are claiming that more than 400 police have been injured in the incidents.