BFF-40 Colombia anti-govt protest clashes kill at least 10 in Cali

139

ZCZC

BFF-40

COLOMBIA-POLITICS

Colombia anti-govt protest clashes kill at least 10 in Cali

BOGOTA, May 29, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – At least 10 people in the city of
Cali were killed in a day of anti-government protests, authorities
said Saturday, as Colombia enters its second month of demonstrations
that have met violent repression.

President Ivan Duque announced Friday he was deploying military
troops to Cali while the nation marked a full month of Colombia-wide
rallies that have morphed into a broad anti-establishment
mobilization.

“Ten people” are dead, “this is the toll we have this morning” in
events linked to Friday’s demonstrations, Cali’s security secretary
Carlos Rojas told Caracol radio. Police said eight of the 10 were shot
dead.

He spoke after reports of violent street clashes. In one case, a
representative from the Cali prosecutor’s office said an off-duty
investigator had shot at a crowd, killing a civilian, before being
lynched by protesters.

Video footage showed a man lying in a pool of blood and another
nearby wielding a gun; that man was then attacked by a group of
people.

“In the south of the city we had a real scene of confrontation and
almost an urban war where many people not only lost their lives, but
we also had a significant number of injuries,” said Rojas.

After chairing a security meeting in the city, Duque announced
Friday “the maximum deployment of military assistance to the national
police” would begin immediately.

– Militarized response –

Human Rights Watch, which has previously put the death toll higher
than the official one, said the situation in the city of 2.2 million
was “very serious.”

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the rights group’s executive director for the
Americas, urged Duque to take “urgent measures to de-escalate,
including a specific order prohibiting agents of the state from using
firearms.”

Analysts have blamed the government’s militarized history for its
response to the protests.

For more than 50 years, Colombia’s war against leftist FARC
guerrillas eclipsed all other government priorities, with the state
emerging from the conflict militarily strong but weak on social
redress.

In 2019, the year after Duque took power, students took to the
streets demanding free and more accessible public education, better
jobs and a supportive government.

The coronavirus outbreak put an end to that without Duque having to
make major concessions.

But on April 28, fury at a proposed tax increase on the middle
classes led people onto the streets again.

Though the proposal was quickly withdrawn, it had triggered a broad
anti-government mobilization by people who felt they were left to fend
for themselves in the health crisis, and who were further angered by
the heavy-handed response of the security forces.

Mostly peaceful protests by day have often turned into riots at
night and running battles with the armed forces.

Protesters have kept barricades burning countrywide and blocked
dozens of key roads, causing shortages of many products.

Meanwhile, Colombia continues to see record numbers of coronavirus
infections, and hospitals are approaching collapse.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2311hrs