The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, announced that will “modernize” the police, which is under scrutiny for the repression of social protests that have persisted for more than a month with a balance of more than 60 deaths.
The president ordered “a decree that will modernize the organic structure of the National Police, especially to strengthen the policy (…) from the human rights”, during a promotion ceremony of the institution in Bogotá.
Without yielding to the pressure of the protesters who demand that the police leave the tutelage of the Ministry of Defense to become a civilian body, the president anticipated a “transformation” of the institution, adding that he will create a “human rights directorate” headed by an expert from outside the organization.
The announcement comes the same day that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) arrives in the country to assess the situation in the middle of the social outbreak.
The police are at the center of criticism in Colombia. AFP photo
The UN, the United States and the European Union have denounced a disproportionate use of force by the authorities in the protests.
In more than half a decade of armed conflict, the Colombian police specialized in the fight against drug trafficking and guerrillas.
Today, after several weeks of clashes in the main cities between young protesters and uniformed men, the institution is viewed negatively by 56% of Colombians, according to the Invamer firm.
What began on April 28 with a demonstration against a project to increase taxes that was later withdrawn, ended up in a protest movement against the government aggravated by the repression of the riot squad, involved in several deaths.
In power since 2018, the conservative Duque has supported the actions of the police in these protests. It also did so in 2019, when a series of anti-government demonstrations left four dead, and in 2020, when an uprising triggered by the murder of a student in the hands of the police resulted in 13 fatalities.
A protest against President Iván Duque. Reuters photo
“Colombia has been with its mobile anti-riot squad for more than 20 years (…) we have seen the minimum cases of lethal incidents,” Duque admitted this Sunday, adding that will provide “new tools” so that the body acts “minimizing the situations or risks of lethality”.
At least 61 people have died since the protests began, according to authorities and the Ombudsman. Two of them were in uniform.
For its part, the NGO Human Rights Watch claims to have “credible complaints” about 67 deaths that have occurred since the protests began. The organization has confirmed that 32 of them “are related to the demonstrations.”
Duque also anticipated the creation of a “new police disciplinary statute”, the implementation of body cameras and the change of color in the uniforms of the institution, which will go from green to blue.
The country lived its bloodiest day just a week ago, when 13 people died in Cali (southwest) amid clashes between protesters, and police backed by armed civilians.
A cascade of images showed several uniformed men accompanying civilians shooting at protesters. The institution claims to have investigations against seven police officers involved.
The event outraged the spokesmen of the National Unemployment Committee, who have been carrying out a dialogue with the government for weeks without reaching agreements and divided by the actions of the public force.
The Committee, which does not represent all sectors that speak out, demands “guarantees for the protest” and that the president apologize for the excesses of the police.
For its part, the government demands that the National Unemployment Committee, convict dozens of roadblocks maintained by the protesters, to whom he attributes the death of two babies trapped in ambulances and millionaire losses.
Source: AFP and EFE