Amid calls from humanitarian organizations to end the repression in Colombia, President Iván Duque made a lightning trip to Cali, the third city in the country and the epicenter of the demonstrations, and ordered the largest deployment of security forces “to provide security to citizens.” Hours later, The conservative president met with the National Unemployment Committee made up of unions and organizations that called the protests from April 28 until today. A meeting that ended without agreements: a new day of demonstrations was called for Wednesday.
“The government did not say anything in particular on the two central issues that were raised, the guarantees of the protests and the cessation of the excessive actions of the public force against the people,” the secretary general of the Central Unitaria told the Efe news agency. of Colombian Workers (CUT), Diógenes Orjuela.
Duque started this week a round of dialogues with various sectors to try to get out of the open political and social crisis with the multidinary protests, in which tens of thousands of Colombians called for an end to the now defunct tax reform, but which have led to other requests such as the withdrawal of a health care reform and an end to police brutality.
But it happens that at the same time that he opens the dialogue, the president calls to reinforce the police presence in the streets. Duque called for “the largest deployment” of public force in the city of Cali, the epicenter of the protests that the country has been experiencing since April 28., while former president Álvaro Uribe, his political mentor, called directly for the “military occupation” of the city.
“Based on the constitutional powers that I have as President of the Republic to accompany and direct local public order situations, at this time you must guarantee (…) the greatest deployment of capabilities of our public force,” Duque said in a message addressed to the government delegation that is in this city.
Without giving more details of whether it refers to a military deployment, such as the one allowed a week ago, or to the Police that is already patrolling in all the cities of the country., the president made that appeal “to provide all the tranquility in the city of Cali.”
These statements occur after twelve days of protests, which began in rejection against the already withdrawn tax reform, and which resonate with force in Cali, whose population is plagued by unemployment, poverty and is a region with serious security problems.
Attack on an indigenous march
On Sunday, armed men in high-end vehicles opened fire on the indigenous march as it entered Cali, near the Cañasgordas area, injuring 10 members of the indigenous guard.
The Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC) reported that at about 2:20 p.m. (4:30 p.m. in Argentina), the indigenous minga (march), made up of several trucks, were “attacked by an Uribe mob in conjunction with the public force,” which They wanted to remove the blockade in that area of Cañasgordas, in the south of the city.
The indigenous population with their march has flooded the city of Cali to join the protesters and the indigenous guard patrolling the neighborhoods to avoid situations of public disorder or mediate clashes with the Police.
Duque reiterated the message he delivered two hours after the incident asking the indigenous people to return to their territories. “At this time and given the circumstances of public order, it is necessary that they return to their safeguards, since the situation of alteration of public order may at this time lead to confrontations with the citizens,” said the president, who on the other hand it did not comment on the fact that there are armed civilians in the streets.
The president also asked local authorities to impose restrictions on mobility to avoid “confrontations with citizens.”
Cali is where the most violent events have taken place, especially between April 30 and May 3, with episodes of police brutality against protesters that have left 35 dead, according to social organizations.
Amnesty International (AI) called on Monday for an end to violence against indigenous people who are demonstrating in Colombia. “The attacks by armed civilians, some in the presence of the police, against the Indigenous Minga in Cali are a reflection of dynamics of violence that do not cease in Colombia and that have been accentuated in the context of social protests in the framework of the National Strike “, expressed the director for the Americas of AI, Erika Guevara Rosas.
Along the same lines, the office in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its rejection of the “attacks suffered by the indigenous minga in Cali and we express grave concern.”
“We urge that the attack that leaves at least 8 indigenous people injured, among them several women leaders and defenders, be investigated and punished (…) We call for calm to all people, especially in Cali, and to respect life and fundamental rights, “said the representative in Colombia of that office, Juliette de Rivero, on Twitter.
Guevara Rosas also warned that indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants “have suffered disproportionately the consequences of violence, the armed conflict and the lack of protection from the State.”
“It is unacceptable that the urgent calls to the authorities to prevent armed violence were not answered immediately; on the contrary, several authorities, including the National Police, issued stigmatizing statements about the indigenous minga and those who were demonstrating peacefully in Cali,” he said.
In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its “deep concern” over the attack with firearms against the indigenous mobilization in Cali. “The IACHR urges the State of Colombia to diligently investigate the facts incorporating an ethnic-racial approach, clarifying the possible participation of state agents, and punishing those responsible; as well as to protect the life and integrity of indigenous people,” the agency said based in Washington on its Twitter account. The IACHR warned about “the serious collective impact that these attacks have on the indigenous peoples and communities in Colombia” and highlighted “the role of indigenous guards in defending their rights.”
In the early morning of this Monday, The protesters and the local authorities of Cali reached an agreement to lift a blockade at the main entrance to that city, while the indigenous minga announced the opening of a humanitarian corridor.o for 24 hours.