Colombia: timid police reform in a country in turmoil

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Radio-Canada

In the aftermath of major protests in Colombia, the government on Wednesday presented parliament with a bill to reform the police, who are accused of brutal repression against protesters. However, the said project does not foresee removing the police from the tutelage of the Ministry of Defense, as requested by the protest movement.

The government has been confronted since the end of April with a social protest movement, which demands more social justice and a more united state in the face of the social damage caused by the pandemic.

The demonstrators are also calling for a reform of the police, whose repression left more than 60 dead during the demonstrations.

For its part, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) denounced in early July the response disproportionate and murderous security forces in the face of demonstrations.

The IACHR recommended in particular the need to make the police a civilian institution, because of the persistence of an armed conflict logic in the response to social mobilization.

But Defense Minister Diego Molano maintains that the national police must be part of the Ministry of Defense due to the conditions of threats and violence that Colombia still faces.

In a country marked by decades of armed conflict, the police has functions in the fight against drug trafficking, the security of citizens (…) the fight against smuggling and this requires greater coordination with the military forces, justified Mr. Molano.

Several months of protest

Among other things, the bill provides for better training of police officers and penalties for those who do not fully identify during arrests or prevent their actions from being filmed.

Ivan Duque's right-wing government, in power since 2018, has faced several waves of protest. The last one began at the end of April to protest against a plan to reform the income tax, since withdrawn.

The movement then turned into protests against government policy. During Tuesday's protest, 70 people were arrested in clashes with police in Bogota, Medellín and Cali.

About 50 people, 24 civilians and 26 police officers, were also injured, according to the Defense of the People, a public body responsible for ensuring respect for human rights.

Poverty on the rise

The poverty already present in the country has been exacerbated by the consequences of the pandemic. Some 42% of the 50 million Colombians now live in poverty.

The National Strike Committee, which is behind the protests, called for a resumption of the protests after suspending the mobilization on June 15.

Composed of students, indigenous and social associations, the Committee had entered into negotiations with the government for several weeks, but these were unsuccessful.

The day before the demonstration, the government announced the deployment of 65,000 soldiers and police in the country, accusing the movement of being infiltrated by dissidents of the former guerrilla forces of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and rebels. of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last active guerrilla in the country.

Read also :

  • Colombia: the revolt of young people without a future
  • Three questions to understand the crisis in Colombia
With information from TOP NEWS TODAY, and Le Monde


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