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Thu May 13, 2021, 08:29 AM

Colombia's Police Force, Built for War, Finds a New One

Police spent decades fighting left-wing guerrillas and paramilitaries. Now, they’re cracking down on protesters, and igniting a wider demonstration movement in response.


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — In Colombia’s decades-long conflict with violent rebel groups, the country’s national police often fought on the front lines, wielding tanks and helicopters as they battled guerrilla fighters and destroyed drug labs. It was a force built for war, and now it has found a new one — on the streets of Colombia’s cities, where the police stand accused of treating civilian protesters as battlefield enemies.

Demonstrations that began two weeks ago as anger over pandemic-related tax reforms have intensified and spread, turning into a collective howl of outrage over abuses by the national police force. Officers have beaten, detained and killed protesters in recent days, sometimes opening fire on peaceful demonstrations and shooting tear gas canisters from armored vehicles, according to more than a dozen interviews by The New York Times with witnesses and family members of the dead and injured.

In an interview Wednesday, President Iván Duque recognized that some officers had been violent, but said that he did not view the problem as systemic. “There have been acts of abuse of force,” he said. But “just saying that there could be any possibility that the Colombian police will be seen as a systematic abuser of human rights — well, that will be not only unfair, unjust, but without any base, any ground.”

But critics say the violence and mounting death toll indicate an urgent need for police reform. And the call to bring the police into line has struck a resounding chord in a country weary of war and atrocity at the hands of a host of paramilitaries, guerrilla fighters and security forces. “They see us as the enemy, knowing that we are citizens,” said Alexis Medina, 29, a protester who said he was detained and beaten by police officers who forced him to drink their urine. “Drink it or I’ll knock out your teeth,” he said he was told. At least 42 people have died, including one police officer, the government said Tuesday. Human Rights Watch and other organizations say the total is likely higher.


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Reply Colombia's Police Force, Built for War, Finds a New One (Original post)
Celerity May 13 OP
al bupp May 13 #1

Response to Celerity (Original post)

Thu May 13, 2021, 10:42 AM

1. Worth a kick /nt

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