Social tension increases in Colombia; abuse of public force questioned
Tensions between the Colombian government and civil society continue to rise after the death of a trans woman who was shot by a member of the Army. The incident occurred at the time that the defense minister was questioned for his response to a court order and to protests over abuses by the public force.
Through Twitter, President Iván Duque asked for "speed" in the investigation of the death of Juliana Giraldo and an "exemplary punishment" for the person responsible for this crime that has shaken the country.
"The army just killed my wife," said Giraldo's spouse, who was traveling with her by car on a highway in Cauca, in southwestern Colombia, when members of the Army asked them to stop.
The Prosecutor's Office reported that it will investigate Giraldo's death with a differential approach, to determine if gender identity had an impact on the events.
This with the purpose is to determine if the gender identity of the victim is relevant in the occurrence of the facts or, independently of it, the identity of Juliana is fully respected throughout the investigative process, said Mauricio Noguera Rojas, expert in differential approach of the institution.
Both in the case of Giraldo, as in other recent ones that lead to massive protests, the government has said that it is about individual behaviors of some of its members, despite the fact that several sectors warn of structural problems within the public force. Along these lines, the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, became the main defender of a reform to the police because, in her opinion, the complaints of police brutality do not correspond to 'bad apples'.
There is a reiteration of events in which members of the public force, both the police and the army, clearly go beyond the legal frameworks, especially in the treatment of protest and control in the regions, explained Alejo Vargas Velásquez, an expert in security and defending.
In the country there is a political and legal debate over the response of the Minister of Defense, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, to a judicial ruling that ordered him to apologize for the "excesses of the public force" committed in the protests of November 2019, because he considered that the use of force against the protesters was systematic, violent, arbitrary and disproportionate.
This spontaneous expression of forgiveness refers to any violation of the Law, at any time, incurred by any of the members of the Institution, said the minister.
For the former judge of the Constitutional Court, José Gregorio Hernández Galindo, the minister "did not comply" because he did not explicitly refer to the victims of the 2019 protests, instead he reiterated the apologies he requested this year after the death of Javier Ordóñez, a law student who died after being subdued by the police with a stun gun. The event sparked violent protests that left 13 people dead in Bogotá between September 9 and 10.
The ruling is mandatory and has increased pressure on the Colombian government to make changes within the police accompanying the protests. The court asked to stop the use of 12-gauge shotguns, until there are guarantees of their "responsible" use, as this was the type of non-lethal weapon that hit a young man during the 2019 protests, causing his death. In addition, the protestors should not be “stigmatized”, as requested by social organizations such as the Popular Human Rights Network of Bogotá and the Urban Popular Summit.
The Defense Minister has said that the actions of riot police occur "exclusively" when there are actions "violent and irrational that constitute crimes" and that can violate the rights of people who demonstrate peacefully.
As the government had warned, the National Liberation Army (ELN) accepted having participated in the recent protests and vandalism that were generated against the police infrastructure.
Even with the infiltrations of the ELN guerrillas in the protests, analysts assure that social discontent is legitimate, since the pandemic has become a trigger and has thrown thousands of people into the streets to protest against violence and better social conditions.
I think the protests have been a kind of continuation, but aggravated by what happened in November of last year during the national strike. The confinement deepened many of the grievances, there is a socioeconomic effect on some social sectors, said analyst Sandra Borda.