Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Colombian police killed 11 protesters, new report (Dec. 14, 2021)

Colombian police were responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters during anti-police protests in Bogotá in September of last year. “It was a police massacre,” wrote Carlos Negret, a former Colombian ombudsman who led an independent investigation backed by the mayor of Bogotá’s office and the United Nations. (See yesterday's briefs.)

Negret and a team of researchers blamed the deaths on an institutional failure to instruct officers not to use firearms against the crowds, and on a response that prioritized the protection of police stations over the lives of officers and protesters. They described the violence as “one of the most serious episodes of violations against human rights in the history of the city of Bogotá.”

According to the report’s authors, 75 people were injured by firearms during the three nights of protests. Police officers were also filmed destroying private property. Seventeen police stations in Colombia’s capital were set on fire and destroyed by protesters.

The protests started after Javier Ordóñez killed by police who detained him for breaking a Covid-19 lockdown. A video shared on social media that day showed him pinned to the ground, pleading for relief as two police officers shocked him repeatedly with a stun gun. “Please,” he begged. “No more.” He later died of a blow to the head suffered while in police custody. (See post for Sept. 10, 2020.)

Most of the deaths occurred in poorer neighborhoods of the city, leading investigators to conclude in the report that “there exists a criminalization of poverty by the state forces, which unleashed authoritarian and illegal actions against residents of certain social sectors.”

The investigation was carried out at the request of Bogotá’s mayor, Claudia López, and was supported by the UN development program. “Who should assume political responsibility?” asked López in a response included in the report. “Me, to begin with, but also the police and president [Iván Duque].”

Alejandro Lanz, co-director of Temblores, a local police violence watchdog, said the report showed systemic failures in the justice system which have allowed responsible police officers to escape prosecution and punishment.

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accused Colombian security forces of using "disproportionate and excessive force" on protesters demonstrating against a series of issues ranging from income inequality and allegations of police brutality. Starting in April, the protestors were met with violence that left at least 25 people dead. Eleven of those deaths involved police forces, according to the Colombian Interior Ministry.

News Briefs

  • Brazil's stubbornly high annual inflation rate of 10.7 percent is hitting the country's poorest particularly hard, and compounding pandemic economic woes, reports the Wall Street Journal

  • Unexpectedly, rising prices could also threaten President Jair Bolsonaro's hopes for reelection next year, reports the New York Times.
  • Chile’s election will define its national identity and political struggles all over Latin America, argues Michael Albertus in a Washington Post opinion that highlights three key factors driving Chile’s new identity politics: an influx of immigrants (mostly from Haiti and Venezuela), Mapuche Indigenous mobilization to reclaim land and resources, and rapidly shifting gender norms and women’s rights. "The political left has sought to extend social and economic support to immigrants. ... The political right has gained traction by demonizing these positions as a threat to Chilean identity and pins a rise in poverty, criminality and violence on immigrants and Indigenous activists."

  • Some migrants have rushed to enter Chile before Sunday's vote, frightened that a win by conservative José Antonio Kast will follow through on his promise to build "ditches" on the country's border to deter people from entering, reports the Associated Press.

  • Regardless of who wins, "Chile’s polarized contest will endanger the country’s role as a middle-of-the-road, pro-democracy broker in Latin America," according to Foreign Affairs
  • A new Wilson Center report analyzes how three U.S. anti-violence models -- cognitive behavioral therapy, the community approach,and the integrated approach -- have either worked or demonstrated potential to work in Mexico and the Northern Triangle. The results indicate that the models provide critical lessons for future implementation in other regional contexts, and further programming in other international settings.

  • An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, using data collected in Colombia and Mexico, shows that extradition has become a game often stacked in favor of well-connected criminals. Meanwhile, the drug trade remains intact and thriving, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Religious groups are among the final institutions left in Haiti, delivering aid and support to an afflicted population -- but that has made priests, nuns and missionaries prime targets for kidnapping and extortion, explains InSight Crime.
  • Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro received a potential boost last week when Yani Rosenthal, leader of the center-right Liberal Party, offered to support Castro's Libre party in presiding over the next Congress, where initial election results suggest she may lack control, reports Reuters.

  • The defeat of the ruling National Party in November's election set off a political earthquake — not only in the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa, but also in Hondura's far-flung provinces, where drug traffickers reign, reports El Faro English. A dispatch by Carlos Dada from the country's north is a story about "agreements made between politicians and drug traffickers and police and landowners and military officers, and about the lines that separate them, but which, in this part of Honduras, have long been erased. About how politics is done in a region where drug money controls everything."
  • Mexican police clashed with a large group of thousands of migrants headed to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic pilgrimage site in Mexico City, reports the BBC.
  • A Peruvian community blocking a transport road used to reach Las Bambas copper mine rejected a revised offer from MMG Ltd as "a joke", and threatened to boycott further talks, reports Reuters.
  • Mexicans have mourned the death of ranchera music icon Vicente Fernández en masse -- in cantinas, a national football final, and the singers Jalisco ranch. Such was Fernández’s stature that Andrés Manuel López Obrador ended his morning press conference yesterday by playing the hit "Volver, Volver," reports the Guardian.

  • Fernández "long represented the ideal of the Mexican man, proud of his roots and himself ... But his brand of machismo has frayed — at least for a younger generation less interested in a narrow view of what it means to be a man," according to the New York Times
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 


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