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The international community on Tuesday called for calm in Colombia, where demonstrations against the right-wing government are violently repressed by the police. President Ivan Duque, for his part, supported the police.

The UN, the European Union, the United States and NGOs called for calm on Tuesday, May 4, denouncing the repression of protests in Colombia, which left around 20 dead and hundreds injured, but the president gave his support to the police.

“There is nothing to justify that there are armed people who, under cover of the legitimate desire of citizens to demonstrate, go out to shoot defenseless people and cruelly attack our police officers,” said Head of State Ivan Duque at the time. of his daily televised address.

The mobilization, initiated on April 28 in reaction to a tax reform project since withdrawn, has turned into a general protest against the right-wing government. It is marked by violence, especially in Cali (south-west), which made the international community react.

“We are deeply alarmed by the events in the city of Cali in Colombia, where the police opened fire on demonstrators who oppose tax reform, killing and injuring a number of people,” Marta Hurtado said, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

Protesters again blocked roads in at least four departments on Tuesday, as well as in Bogota and Cali, the city most affected by the unrest. Marta Hurtado had previously appealed for calm, deploring the fact that “the security forces fired live ammunition and beat demonstrators”.

Escalation of violence

The Defender of the People, a public body for the protection of rights, had reported Monday morning 19 dead, 89 missing and the government 846 injured, including 306 civilians.

In Brussels, the EU considered it “a priority to put an end to the escalation of this violence and to avoid any disproportionate use of force by the security forces”. “We are counting on Colombian institutions to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for violations of human rights and freedoms,” said Peter Stano, spokesman for the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.

The United States called for “the utmost restraint on the part of the police to avoid further loss of life.” And the NGO Amnesty International demanded to put an end to the repression of the demonstrations and to the “militarization of the cities”.

The situation worsened in Cali on Monday evening. The army has been deployed there since Friday. The blockages of the main access routes are starting to generate a fuel shortage, and concerns for the passage of oxygen trucks and medical equipment, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By announcing the reinforcement on the spot of more than 700 soldiers, 500 agents of Esmad and 1,800 police officers, the Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, had argued that the disturbances were orchestrated there by armed groups. Ivan Duque added Tuesday by affirming that the police were the target of these groups, which intend to take control of the former strongholds of the former Farc guerrillas since she signed the peace in 2016. He has announced the dispatch of several ministers to Cali.

Call to demonstrate Wednesday

The Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, deplored Tuesday that a member of his service and four other people, in particular of the Colombian office of the UNO, had been threatened the day before by the police, who “fired several times in the air and down to the ground “.

“The deployment of the public force was too important, unprecedented, it’s terrifying (…) They do not intervene by negotiating with the community, but by shooting against the citizens,” Yonny told AFP Rojas representative of Créalo, a human rights foundation in Cali.

Under pressure from the protests, the finance minister resigned on Monday. The day before, President Duque had withdrawn his reform project, deemed aggressive towards the middle class and inopportune in the midst of an economic recession aggravated by the pandemic.

This conservative, whose popularity is at half mast at 33%, had already been the target of demonstrations in 2019. This time, he pledged to present a new text, excluding the most contested points, including an increase in VAT and broadening the income tax base. But the National Strike Committee, at the origin of the mobilization, maintains its call for demonstrations on Wednesday, now also against a health reform project.

With AFP

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