Thousands of people protested again Wednesday, June 9 against President Iván Duque in Colombia, where since the end of April demonstrations of unprecedented scale have killed dozens of people while negotiations with the government are not progressing. Taking to the streets of several cities, the demonstrators demand in particular the end of police repression and more united public policies in the face of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has plunged 42% of the 50 million inhabitants of this country in poverty.
The social crisis, which erupted on April 28 against a plan to raise taxes since withdrawn, results in almost daily demonstrations of various sizes, roadblocks, affecting in particular the southwest of the country, and violent clashes with the police. The international community denounced the excesses and abuses of the police, which prompted a visit by a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to Colombia from June 6 to 10.
President Duque announced on Sunday a police reform focused on respect for human rights, but has drawn criticism over the limited scope of the promised measures. At least 61 people, including two police officers, have died since the protests began, according to the authorities and the People’s Defender, a public rights protection body.
The human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday denounced “Very serious abuse” Colombian police, allegedly involved in 20 killings during the protests against the government that have followed one another since April 28. HRW said in a report that 16 of the dead were hit by gunfire fired with intent to “kill” by police officers.
The government “Should adopt urgent measures to protect human rights and initiate a profound police reform to ensure that officers respect the right to peaceful assembly, and that those responsible for abuses are brought to justice”, HRW stressed in this report which was to be presented to President Iván Duque during the day. The attacks “are not isolated incidents of unruly agents, but the result of deep structural defects”, according to this text.
HRW Americas director José Miguel Vivanco told a virtual press conference that he had received “Credible denunciations” concerning 34 deaths during the demonstrations, of which 20 were apparently caused by police officers and of these 16 as a result of bullets aimed at “vital organs”. “Autopsies suggest officials shot to kill”, he added.
The National Strike Committee, the most visible organization of the mobilization, on Sunday suspended the negotiations started on May 7 with the government of Iván Duque, in power since 2018.