Heavy-Handed Riot Police Bring Wave of Criticism on Colombia

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against a tax reform bill launched by Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia on April 29, 2021. Photographer: Paola Mafla/AFP/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) --Colombia is facing a wave of criticism from foreign governments and human rights organizations over heavy-handed police tactics during recent protests.

By Oscar Medina
May 5, 2021, 12:53 AM
Word Count: 380

U.S. House Foreign Affairs chair Gregory Meeks, a Democrat, expressed concern over “excessive use of force”, and warned that the so-called Leahy Law bars the U.S. from supporting security forces involved in severe human rights violations.

The U.N. Office for Human Rights said in a statement that it was “deeply alarmed” by police opening fire on demonstrators in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, on Monday night.

The Washington Office on Latin America, an NGO which studies human rights in the region, called on the U.S. to suspend sales of crowd control equipment to Colombia’s security forces.

The European Union and Human Rights Watch also criticized the government.

At least 20 people have died across the country in recent days in clashes between protesters and security forces. The police said that nearly 600 officers have been injured, and that they have repeatedly been attacked with firearms.

Defense Minister Diego Molano said that Colombia is facing a “terrorist threat from organized crime gangs” who are seeking to destabilize cities including Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

Demonstrations erupted last week in protest against a plan by the government of President Ivan Duque to raise taxes. More marches are planned by labor unions Wednesday even though the tax proposal was withdrawn and the Finance Minister resigned.

Read More: Colombian Finance Chief Quits After Days of Violent Protests

Masked vandals put dozens of stations of Colombia’s mass transit bus network out of action, while road blocks by protesting truckers have hampered food distribution. Chicken producers say that hundreds of thousands of birds have died because of food shortages caused by the blockades.

In a statement, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said it will meet with foreign diplomats on Wednesday to explain the situation, and affirmed that Colombia is a law-abiding state which guarantees the right of peaceful mobilization.

–With assistance from Ezra Fieser.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options