Colombian soldiers have begun their deployment in the southwest Colombian city of Cali after president Ivan Duc he promised to restore order in the wake of the deadly violence that erupted amid massive anti-government demonstrations.
The streets of Cali, the country’s third-largest city with a population of 2.2 million, were quiet on Saturday, hours after clashes between protesters, police and armed civilians killed several people.
Mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina said in a video message that at least 13 people were killed on Friday, although he specified that it was unclear whether all the deaths “are fully related and associated with the protests.”
“This fateful day has meant a very significant number of deaths,” said Ospina, who added that at least 34 people were also injured.
On Sunday, confirmation of the cause of death is expected to be announced, a prosecutor’s representative said.
On Friday, in one case, a Cali prosecutor’s office representative said an off-duty investigator had shot at a crowd and killed a civilian before being lynched by protesters.
The video footage showed a man lying in a pool of blood and another nearby with a gun; that man was attacked by a group of people.
“In the south of the city, we had a real confrontation scene and almost an urban war in which many people not only lost their lives, but we also had a significant number of wounded,” the security secretary said earlier. from Cali, Carlos Rojas, on Caracol radio Saturday.
Cali emerged earlier this month, as the epicenter of the national protest movement, with some protesters erecting blockades that have prevented access to fuel and other goods.
Talks between the government and protest leaders, including union leaders who have formed a national strike committee, have stalled.
Violence has erupted during the protests and so far dozens of people have been killed, according to local human rights groups, who have accused Colombian police of using excessive force.
Friday, Duke announced he sent the military to the province of Valle del Cauca and to Cali, its capital, after the increase in deadly violence.
“As of tonight begins the maximum deployment of military assistance to the national police of Cali and the province of Valle,” Duque said in a televised message.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the American division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said Saturday that Duque’s measures to restore order in the province “do not include any explicit reference to prioritizing dialogue, avoiding excessive force, and respect for human rights “.
“A serious failure that can have irreparable consequences,” he said he tweeted.
A day earlier, the United Nations human rights office in Colombia expressed concern for the dead, urging “calm and non-violence.”
Elizabeth Dickinson, Colombia’s senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, also tweeted that “the risk of violent escalation in #Cali is extremely high.”
“There is NO armed or military solution to this crisis. But agendas on all sides are increasingly tempted to look for one, “he wrote on Friday, adding that Colombia was” on the brink of new armed conflict. “
Meanwhile, Colombian protesters have pledged to continue their demonstrations.
“Until the government listens to us, we must remain on the streets,” said Alejandro Franco, a 23-year-old protester at the capital’s Reuters news agency in Bogota.
Franco said he was marching for better education and health, among other things. “If people don’t have peace, neither does the government,” he added.
Let me make it clear: the risk of a violent escalation to #Cali it is extremely high
There is NO armed or military solution to this crisis. But agendas on all sides are increasingly tempting to look for one
Without being alarmist, we are on the brink of new armed conflict
– Elizabeth Dickinson (@dickinsonbeth) May 28, 2021
Sandra Borda, an analyst and protest expert, told The Associated Press that there is a crisis of representation in both the government, which has limited room for maneuver, and the National Strike Committee, which does not represent all sectors that manifest.
“We are facing a scenario that I do not think will be resolved soon, because the only thing the government can control with any level of effectiveness are the state forces and therefore it is still trying to resolve the situation with a lot of hand,” he said. to say. .
“When state forces are excessive there is more outrage, more anger and more fuel is added to the fire of the demonstrations.”