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Reckoning with deadly violence in Colombia’s extended wave of protests

That query burned within the eyes of Luis Fernando Barbosa, the daddy of Dylan “B Lion”, a 27-year-old hip hop artist who died in Bogota within the early hours of May 8, after a collision with an armored automobile of the Colombian anti-riot police unit, ESMAD.

Preliminary reviews from the investigative police recommend Barbosa had misplaced management of his motorbike as he was overtaking the police automobile, and ultimately discovered himself in its path. His mates, together with human rights organizations looking for a job in post-conflict Colombia reconstruction, do not imagine this model of occasions and accuse the police of homicide. The Ombudsman’s workplace advised CNN that authorities are investigating the person’s loss of life.

I heard Barbosa’s ache and indignation at a memorial for his son, held on a wet Saturday evening on the identical highway the place he died within the early hours of the identical day.

“Two liters of blood spilled on this very road were enough, I don’t want to see more blood on the street, and I want that blood to be a seed for you, for the living!” stated Barbosa in a painful eulogy, shedding no tears however with the indignance of somebody who has simply skilled an irreplaceable loss.

Beside him stood about 2 hundred kids, women and men who knew Dylan and his songs, and got here to pay their respects. They held candles to mild up the evening and rain covers to maintain dry.

Dylan Barbosa is now considered one of 41 victims of deadly violence in a chronic wave of protests in Colombia that first started in rejection of a now-cancelled fiscal reform on April 28 that has exacerbated unrest throughout the nation
The heavy-handed response and alleged abuses dedicated by safety forces have solely fueled extra protests, now of their third week as protesters add to their calls for for police and social reform.
So far, the protests have been largely peaceable, however the small clusters of violence have had knock-on results. While NGO teams declare that the police have been straight concerned within the loss of life of no less than 40 folks, together with Barbosa, uniformed males have additionally turn out to be a goal, with 1 policeman killed, 849 injured and dozens of police stations vandalized throughout the nation.

A path to inclusive dialogue

When we met Barbosa’s father, we have been filming a GoThere episode devoted to the police violence in Colombia. We needed to sort out this problem, however we didn’t anticipate to come across a lethal case on our highway. While we meant to talk with victims, many of the violence had concentrated within the southern metropolis of Cali and there have been no reviews of deaths within the protests in Bogota, Colombia’s capital and the scene of the political drama.

Still, I needed the attitude of the police officer on the entrance strains, and to see if there was any frequent floor to be discovered from dialogue with a demonstrator and an officer.

After talking with dozens of protesters and males in uniform, we recognized two younger girls: an economics pupil at Colombia’s National University, Jennifer Pedraza, a member of the National Strike Committee, and Deisy Sánchez, a second lieutenant within the Bogota Metropolitan Police.

Pedraza shared tales of her previous encounters with the police in earlier protests and the concern it instilled in her about marching within the presence of a police platoon.

“We’re marching right now because we have to defend the right to protest. Have you seen the videos of the police simply opening fire over the civil population? And that’s not proportionate, that’s nowhere near a proportional use of military force,” Pedraza advised us.

Images of alleged police abuse have gone viral on Colombian social media over the previous few weeks, international governments and worldwide organizations have known as for moderation and de-escalation.

The Colombian authorities has up to now voiced assist for the safety forces: within the first days of the protests, Army Chief Eduardo Zapateiro hailed the anti-riot police ESMAD as “heroes dressed in black”.

At the identical time, because the outrage for the heavy-handed ways employed by the police has risen, so have the federal government pledges to completely examine any abuse. This week, Colombia’s president Iván Duque revealed to CNN that the federal government is investigating 65 instances of police abuses in coping with the demonstrations.

A approach ahead for the police

Speaking with us, Lieutenant Sánchez urged the protesters to grasp that the police are merely following orders and so deserve the protesters’ respect: “We train every day to employ proportionate use of force, reasonable use of force. What we want is a rapid solution to this confrontation because it’s not just the Police that is affected, it’s the population as a whole that is going through this violence.”

She confirmed us her police station in a working-class neighborhood not removed from the place Barbosa died. The station had been vandalized the evening of May four with Molotov cocktails and stones.

Sánchez’s superior officer, Major Pablo Rámirez, stated that the viral movies displaying violence by the hands of the police don’t paint a full image, however conceded that, “perhaps, in some cases, some agents have failed to measure their force.”

Our shoot ended early due to the rappers’ vigil, however experiencing the vigil will stick with me. Lieutenant Sánchez urged me to share Pedraza’s contact info so they may sit and focus on the nation’s issues collectively. I share her hope that this wave of protests will drive Colombia into extra constructive conversations, and that from this disaster the nation will re-emerge stronger and extra equal.

I can nonetheless hear the phrases of Luis Fernando Barbosa, the daddy stripped of his son: “Life, just like love, does not need anything out of anyone’s pocket to get rich from them. Be kind. There’s a country to change ahead of us.”

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