Colombia's President Iván Duque Monday ordered a mass deployment of the public force to clear the roads of peaceful demonstrations he considers to be “an act of sabotage.”
Despite international calls to stop the bloodshed, Duque has insisted the infamous Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) be summoned together with the armed forces.
We have instructed all levels of the public force so that in the territories with mayors and governors, they deploy their maximum operational capacity so that within proportionality and strict compliance with human rights, it allows Colombians to regain mobility and well-being, said Duque.
The president also insisted that behind these blockades, there is a criminal interest to sabotage the economy and the development of the populations. He added that our public force is in the territory to protect citizens and any violation of the Law is categorically rejected.
Meanwhile, the opposition National Unemployment Committee (CNP) has demanded that in order to advance in the negotiations the Government must demilitarize the country.
But Duque replied that troops “will be advancing in every point of our geography to regain normalcy. There is no oppression here, there is a democracy.”
Senator Iván Cepeda and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have filed complaints last Thursday before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) against the Colombian Government for crimes against humanity that occurred during the demonstrations of the National Strike over the past 20 days.
While human rights organizations speak of over 50 dead, the Colombian Interior Ministry Monday officially acknowledged there had been only 24 casualties up to May 16. The official data also admitted 14 of them were related to the protest while the other 10 are still under investigation to determine whether they were in fact linked to any doing on the part of the government's forces.
In addition to that, the government has admitted to 802 civilians being injured nationwide.
The report also features a police officer who died from a sharp weapon wound and 920 injured soldiers, of whom eight remain hospitalized.
Human rights organizations speak of at least 50 people killed and almost 600 injured, of whom at least 37 suffered eye injuries from shots fired by the police. In addition, at least 1,430 people were arbitrarily detained, sexual violence was committed against 21 women and there are more than 520 people reported missing.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the Office of the Ombudsman of Colombia, released on Tuesday 11, reported 42 people killed during the protests, 41 civilians and a member of the police.
Finally, the Colombian police report 735 arrests in flagrante delicto, 69 arrests of minors, and the seizure of 18,222 sharp weapons, 600 firearms, 318 pneumatic weapons and 122 explosive items.
In these circumstances, the CNP denounced Monday that the government of President Duque refused to offer guarantees for social protest in Colombia, which was a requirement for negotiations to proceed. Today we waited for a response to our demands for guarantees for the protest, to be able to begin negotiations, and the government said no to everything,...” the Committee said in a statement.
The government still does not understand that we are in a National Strike because those laws, those instances and those authorities do not work, they do not respond to millions of Colombians and Colombians, maintained the protesters, who claimed Duque intends to give an image to the world of respect for the rule of law and sincere dialogue, but at the same time he does not recognize the gravity and dimension of the state violence against the protesters and his only concern is the blockades that he demands to lift.
The CNP made it clear that “The strike continues. For life and peace, we maintain the call for the largest and most peaceful mobilizations for this Wednesday, May 19, with all the biosafety protocols.”
Miguel Ceballos, high commissioner for peace and the Government's spokesman in the negotiations, said that the immediate clearing of the blocked roads which bring shortages and hinder any economic reactivation should happen first on the part of the CNP. It is not possible to start a negotiation when violence in the streets and the blockades continue; here we have to be very clear if there are blockades, there is violence because any table even if it is installed will not be able to advance, Ceballos said.
I do not find reasons for the blockades to continue, and the will of the government is clear, many of them seem to have different interests, he added.
The NGO Temblores, dedicated to registering and accounting for local police violence, maintains that there are 39 homicides allegedly committed by members of the public force” and 16 victims of sexual violence also attributed to soldiers.
Sunday evening riots were still active and at least two people were killed and 16 others were injured in Yumbo, while the headquarters of the local administration and the House of Justice in La Plata were burned down. At least 11 people have been arrested for these events.