Colombia: Massacre in Bogotá: Peace in the Institutions
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
10 September 2020
Bogotá exploded again on September 9th following the murder of Javier Ordóñez at the hands of the police. They murdered whilst he begged for his life.(1) It was the first large rebellion since last year's marches and the police responded in the only manner they know with a massacre of seven people. This massacre, unlike the others in the country took place in the midst of the capital and not in some isolated corner and it can be directly attributed to the Mayor's office and the Presidency of the country.
The reactions were not long in coming. Claudia López the Mayoress of Bogotá and the highest police authority in Bogotá reacted calmly to the murder of Javier Ordónez. She can be seen in a video simply asking if the case has been handed over to the prosecutor's office and the high ranking officer present informs her that no, they have handed it to the Military Criminal Justice System. She didn't blink. She certainly didn't expect the reaction of the people. The result of the night of protests is seven people murdered, five in Bogotá and two in Soacha, 140 injured, 87 of them police, eight Transmilenio buses burnt and 56 police installations damaged, amongst them 22 local police stations burnt down.(2) The Minister of Defence offered up to 50 million pesos [12,000 dollars] for information on the killings.(3) He won't have to go any further than police ranks and ask who wants to inform on the superior officers, but he won't do that.
According to Claudia López the acts of protest are not justifiable and she further states with the greatest stupidity that "destroying Bogotá won't fix the police, it won't rebuild the deficit in trust and legitimacy that there is in the police."(4) She is partly right but it is not about whether the violence fixes the police, we know she won't do that as during the confinement she proudly sent the police to evict poor people, she called upon them to impose order, she received reports of police abuse, such as extortions, torture, beatings, rapes and sexual abuse and she did absolutely nothing. Today following a night of justified rage she announced that she had asked the Procurator and the Public Defender's Office to lead a process of structural reform of the police and said that "the president himself is the one who should be tasked with leading the reform."(5) She never worried about that when she was evicting people, when women were being raped, nor when they tortured a youth in a local police station burning his head, but after one night of violence, she found her spirit of police reform. It may be the case that violence will not fix the police, but it made that right wing Mayoress move for the first time this year.
The parliamentary left has been rather silent in the face of the events, though Senator Petro did speak on it and circulated videos of the events that he described as murder.
This Thursday morning Petro referred to the allusions of the uribistas and stated: "The official figure of murders in Bogotá has risen to eight, including Javier Ordóñez. The uribistas try to blame us for the events. They have built a security policy based on death which has turned the police into a lethal force and not a civic one and they have turned the country into a dictatorship."(6)Leaving aside the fact that the police has always been a lethal force, his description is correct, the security police of the uribistas and the Greens under the Mayoress Claudia López is a policy of fear and death. Following a confinement that did not do much good in reducing the spread of Covid-19 due to the way it was implemented, the youth expressed their anger at the murder but also there are certainly elements of rage in the face of the robbery of the exchequer and the handing over of public funds to Luis Carlos Sarmiento whilst people went hungry in their houses.
Now, the tepid police reform that López wants is not enough, she has to resign from her post. She is responsible for the events; she is the authoritarian who during her administration did nothing to reduce police violence but rather increased it through her declarations. When the students protested she came out shouting and giving out to them as if she was there mother and even did publicity stunts with mothers. She never came out shouting and shrieking in that inimitable style of hers when the police raped women. No, and now she wants us to trust in her proposal of a distant reform. It is time for her to resign and for the sacking of all the high ranking police officers and the punishment of all the officers involved in these and other acts of violence as there have been more than a few during the confinement and they haven't been limited to Bogotá, which is why Duque and the Minister for Defence should also resign, they also murdered Javier.
(1) Videos of the protests and the murder can be seen in this report from Russia Today. It is in Spanish but the videos are visually illustrative. Russia Today https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/366093-ministro-defensa-colombiano-confirma-muertes-bogota
(2) El Tiempo (10/09/2020) Siete muertos, 140 heridos, saldo de violenta noche de protestas https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/delitos/cinco-muertos-y-80-heridos-saldo-de-noche-de-protestas-en-bogota-537005
(4)El Espectador (10/09/2020) “Destruir a Bogotá no va a arreglar la Policía”: Claudia López https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/destruir-a-bogota-no-va-arreglar-la-policia-claudia-lopez/
(6) El Tiempo (10/09/2020)
Polémica entre Petro y Uribistas por violencia en protestas https://www.eltiempo.com/politica/congreso/polemica-entre-petro-y-uribistas-sobre-violencia-en-protestas-537029