Colombia deploys military to curb violence during anti-government protests
Bogota, May 28 (EFE).- Colombia President Iván Duque Friday ordered for “the maximum deployment” of the military in parts of the country, rocked by a wave of violence during a general strike that left three people dead.
“From tonight begins the maximum deployment of military assistance to the National Police in the city of Cali and in the department of Valle,” Duque said.
He said the most experienced officials would lead the operation.
The “military assistance” means deploying soldiers in several cities across the country until the weeks-long anti-government demonstrations that disrupted public order cease.
Three people died violently on Friday in the heart of Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, where an armed civilian, an employee of the Attorney General’s Office, fired at several people blocking the area.
An eyewitness said he saw a man whose path protesters had blocked pull out a gun and shoot.
The man killed two people before protesters overpowered and killed him, the eyewitness said.
Several photographers were assaulted in the city’s Ciudad Jardin neighborhood, where people in civvies fired at protesters and identifiable journalists.
The Colombian president said the deployment will triple military capability “in less than 24 hours” and would also ensure “assistance at hotspots where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism.”
The deployment aims to seek the protection of the corridors by unblocking the roads from protesters “protect the rights of all citizens,” he added.
“There are more than 7,000 men (police officials and soldiers) freed up for that work.”
He stressed that the “country had always maintained channels for deliberation and consensus in the face of the needs of the citizenry” but “not negotiating the constitution or the rights of citizens.”
Protests began on April 28 against the government’s proposed tax and health reforms bills that were shelved leading to the resignation of former finance minister Alberto Carrasquilla.
Thousands of people on Friday returned to the streets for demonstrations.
Violence also broke out in the town of Madrid near Bogotá, where protesters clashed for hours with the police’s mobile anti-riot squad.
“I have asked the provincial police commander, the Esmad commander, with great force, to withdraw from our community. We don’t want more victims in our community, we want Madrid to be a territory of peace,” Mayor Andres Tovar said. EFE