A protester in Bogotá, on May 6.Luisa González / Reuters
The world looks at Colombia with concern. In various pronouncements, the international community this Friday has redoubled the pressure for the Government of Iván Duque, surrounded by protests that have crashed with police repression, to stop the violence in the Andean country. While the UN has asked to guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to protest, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, condemned the cases of “torture and murder committed by the forces of order”, although he also urged to end roadblocks that have put food and medicine supplies at risk in some cities.
After ten days of all kinds of mobilizations and riots in which at least 28 people have lost their lives, in which disturbing images of excessive use of force and police brutality have abounded, the delicate internal situation threatens to also lead to a diplomatic crisis.
The United Nations system in Colombia insisted in a statement that "any action by the security forces must fully observe the protection and respect for human rights," in addition to recalling that the peace agreement sealed at the end of 2016 with the defunct FARC guerrilla, of which Duque has been very critical, "offers elements to regulate these guarantees and strengthen citizen participation."
The electoral climate conditions the exit from the crisis in Colombia
The repression of protests seals Duque's divorce with young people
Among the long chain of statements that express alarm at the vertigo of events, from Europe to the United States, that of the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, seems to have caused a particular irritation.
"I pray that the Colombian people return to social peace and I urge your Government to cease the unique institutional violence that has been carried out, in keeping with human rights," the Peronist president wrote on his social networks.
Bogotá rejected his words. "The Colombian democratic institutionality protects the constitutional rights of Colombians and will not be discredited by this type of pronouncement that, in addition to being an arbitrary interference, seeks to feed the polarization that does not contribute to coexistence and consensus," said the Foreign Ministry in a unusual response. "Colombia will continue to be a country open to international scrutiny, but we will always reject external pronouncements that do not reflect objectivity," Foreign Minister Claudia Blum added in a statement.
In the United States, Colombia's main ally in many fields, the critical voices of several Democrats have also been heard in Congress, where key budget issues for Bogotá are defined. "There must be accountability for the long series of human rights abuses exercised by the Colombian government," said New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in line with the claims that other legislators such as Jim McGovern and Ilhan Omar, of the party, have aired. from President Joe Biden. The crisis could affect US cooperation, which includes the security forces.
The storm worsens as Duque tries to retake the initiative with a difficult negotiation with different political sectors.
In a breath of diplomatic oxygen, the governments of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay and Peru, their partners in Prosur, expressed their support for the Executive, the institutions and “all parties interested in promoting spaces for dialogue, recovering the coexistence and guarantee respect for Human Rights ”.
Duque meets with the opposition
Former peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle, in the center, and other members of the Coalition of Hope after their meeting with Iván Duque at the Casa de Nariño.
DPA via Europa Press / Europa Press
On the internal political board, the Coalition of Hope, which brings together the forces at the center of the spectrum, agreed to meet this Friday with Duque at the Casa de Nariño, the Government Palace. It was the first opposition sector to attend the dialogue called by the president to resume the initiative and seek a way out of the crisis, after police brutality, and the decision to take the army out onto the streets, had frustrated the first approaches . Presidential candidates Sergio Fajardo, Ángela María Robledo, Humberto de la Calle and Juan Manuel Galán, among others, arrived at the meeting wearing T-shirts displaying the names of the dead left by the protests.
Although there were no agreements, the meeting revolved around various claims that are summarized in that the president must meet with the National Committee of the Unemployment, which brings together the workers' centrals and the student movement that have called the mobilizations; stop the violence of the security forces and remove the military from the streets; and open the conversation in the regions as well, not just in Bogotá. "You have to listen to many voices that cannot come here ... We ask the president that the first task is to go to Cali, to Siloé, to meet with the communities, to summon young people without any kind of hope," said Fajardo, the aspirant of the alliance best positioned in the polls, alluding to the neighborhood of the third city in the country where the worst episodes of violence have occurred. When going to the Casa de Nariño,The coalition has distanced itself from the Historical Pact promoted by Gustavo Petro, more heeled to the left.
Petro, the candidate defeated by Duque in the second round of 2018, has sought to claim prominence in social mobilization, and is the rival to beat in the incipient party ahead of the 2022 presidential elections. Embarked on a turn to pragmatism, the former mayor de Bogotá has supported the protests, but has also invited moderation. He has opted to project a presidential image with "speeches" on his social networks. During the day, a series of audios were known in which Petro declared that the strike should have ended when the tax reform that was the spark of the protests collapsed.
“The moment the Government decided to withdraw it, it should have declared the popular victory, and stop there. If they want to, in other words, accumulate strength for what followed ”, Petro is heard reasoning in the recordings released this Friday. The politician was recorded without his consent and those words, out of context, occurred this week at a meeting called by the Let's defend peace movement, which was also attended by representatives of the Unemployment Committee, spokespersons for the candidate explained to this newspaper. The left-wing leader who heads the polls points out that there is a distance between the Unemployment Committee and the protesters. "The people who are on the street today are popular youth, neighborhood youth," abounds. “And that neighborhood youth that comes out with the fight against the tax reform wants to continue fighting,But at this moment there are no clear objectives ”, despite the outrage over the acts of violence, he laments.
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