DOZENS of people have died and about 90 are missing after a brutal police crackdown on anti-government protests in Colombia.

The European Union has urged cops to stop being so heavy-handed, while human rights officials are “deeply alarmed” by reports of police shootings.

AFP

A riot policeman watches the crowd during clashes in Colombia[/caption]

What’s happening in Colombia?

Cops have been “opening fire on demonstrators” in the Colombian city of Cali, killing and injuring scores of protesters.

Also, 89 demonstrators have been listed as “disappeared”, reports Colombia’s human rights ombudsman.

The international community has slammed what the UN described as an “excessive use of force” by security officers during eight days of anti-government protests.

According to official figures, at least 24 people have died – 18 of whom were shot – with more than 800 others wounded.

The death toll could be even higher, with The Temblores NGO reporting 37 people dead.

Reporters Without Borders meanwhile said that 76 journalists were assaulted, 10 of whom were injured by security forces.

Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets in demonstrations that began on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

They are showing their anger over a proposed tax reform, but their action has since morphed into broader protests against the government of President Ivan Duque.

Zuma Press

Ipiales, Narino, Colombia – where demonstrators protest against the tax reform[/caption]

Getty

A woman holds a sign in front of police officers during a national strike on May 5 in Bogota, Colombia[/caption]

The Ministry of Defense has deployed 47,500 uniformed personnel countrywide.

Fears have been rising about a creeping militarization as police and soldiers have forcefully clamped down on protests.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced “profound shock” about a shocking incident in Cali when cops “opened fire” to kill and injure more demonstrators.

Spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva: “What we can say clearly is that we have received reports, and we have witnesses, (of) excessive use of force by security officers, shooting, live ammunition being used, beatings of demonstrators and as well detentions.”

Ariel Avila, the deputy director of Colombia’s Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, said: “It is the strategy of old… a message to shut down the protests.”

A local security official said five people died in Cali overnight on Tuesday, May 4, and 33 people were injured.

And 30 civilians and 16 police officers were wounded in attacks on police stations, the Bogota mayor’s office said.

Almost half the population lives in poverty, according to official figures.

Getty Images – Getty

A man is injured in clashes with riot cops in Bogota[/caption]

Getty

Protesters gather at the Los Heroes monument during a national strike in Bogota, Colombia[/caption]

What’s happened so far?

Wednesday, April 28: Tens of thousands of Colombians take to the streets in major cities to rail against a proposed tax reform

The protests begin after the government launches a tax plan aimed at raising $6.7billion to tackle the country’s debts and maintaining a basic income scheme for three million low-income people that started during the Covid pandemic.

Colombians fiercely resist the plan as they believe it punishes the middle class, and is cruel to introduce in the middle of the pandemic.

AFP

People demonstrate against the tax reform in Bogota on April 28, 2021[/caption]

Thursday, April 29: Far fewer protesters are out for a second day of demonstrations against the hated tax reform.

Military and police forces report blockades of roads near the capital, Bogota, and in Valle del Cauca province, where protesters stop traffic to the city of Buenaventura, home to Colombia’s main Pacific port.

Getty

Anti-government demonstrators clash with cops in Bogota[/caption]

Friday, April 30: Colombia deploys 2,500 more police and army units to Cali, its third-biggest city, to crack down on protests and vandalism.

Tear gas and rubber bullets are fired in clashes with protesters, to disperse crowds.

AFP

There have been hundreds of injuries after rubber bullets were fired[/caption]

Saturday and Sunday, May 1-2: Thousands of Colombians pack streets on Saturday for International Workers’ Day marches in the fourth day of demonstrations, which have so far resulted in at least four deaths.

A police officer stabbed earlier in the week amid looting in the city of Soacha, south of Bogota, has died of his injuries.

Isolated looting, vandalism and clashes between cops and protesters also takes place in Bogota, Medellin and other cities.

Demonstrations continue over the weekend despite an announcement by Duque late on Friday, April 29, that his tax reform would be revised, and would now not include sales tax on food, utilities or gasoline or an expansion of income tax.

The Finance Minister, Alberto Carrasquilla, has now quit his role.

Getty Images – Getty

A young protester throws fire during the national strike[/caption]

Monday, May 3: Protesters call for fresh mass rallies after more than 800 people were wounded in clashes during five days of demonstrations.

In the face of the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday had ordered the tax reform proposal be withdrawn from Congress, but this doesn’t defuse the public anger.

In Cali – at the heart of fierce clashes with military and riot cops – 11 demonstrators have now died, says the Andean country’s human rights ombudsman.

The national police has said it will investigate more than two dozen allegations of brutality, while the defense minister has alleged illegal armed groups are infiltrating the protests to stoke violence.

AFP

Riot police fire tear gas and rubber bullets, along with stun grenades at protesters[/caption]

Tuesday, May 4: The UN human rights office condemns “excessive use of force” by security officers in Colombia during the protests.

The demonstrations – originally to oppose a now-canceled tax reform – have morphed into broader action against poverty and police violence.

The clashes force the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) to move two of this week’s Copa Libertadores games to Paraguay.

Duque says the government is ready to hold a national dialogue after days of protests led to more than 20 deaths and international warnings about the use of excessive force by cops.

EPA

The fierce street clashes are set to continue[/caption]

Wednesday, May 5: Students, unions, indigenous people and other groups assemble in the capital Bogota as well as the cities of Medellin in the northwest and Cali in the southwest.

They stage protests at various points around Bogota, holding banners with slogans calling for President Ivan Duque to resign.

Thousands, most wearing face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, gathered at the downtown Plaza Bolivar near the presidential headquarters.

Police prevented one group from entering Congress.

Angry demonstrators also call for a basic income guarantee, the withdrawal of a government health reform proposal and the dissolution of the riot police.

Numerous videos have emerged on social media showing police using excessive force during the protests and even shooting at some demonstrators point blank.

Ariel Avila, the deputy director of Colombia’s Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, has hit out at the deployment of hundreds of soldiers.

Alamy

Tens of thousands of Colombians are showing their opposition to the government[/caption]

In such a volatile situation, adding soldiers to the mix is “a terrible risk,” said Avila.

He told news agency AFP: “It is an excessive response… which will increase the number of deaths.”.

Observer group Temblores says 940 cases of police abuse have been reported to it in the last few days of protests.

In Cali alone, 700 soldiers, 500 riot cops, 1,800 other police and two helicopters have been put into operation.


Thursday, May 6: Many roadblocks remain in Cali – Colombia’s third most populous city and one of the most violent in Latin America – with trucks carrying fuel and medical supplies requiring military and police protection to get through as the country battles a second wave in the coronavirus pandemic.

Mass marches and a national strike are planned to continue, a week after protests started.


Source: The Sun

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