Colombian city of Tuluá’s Palace of Justice ablaze amid protests

Bogotá, May 25 (EFE).- The Palace of Justice in Colombia’s southwest city of Tuluá was on fire Tuesday, after a day of protests that ended in severe disturbances and violence.

According to reports and videos released by the police, the flames have destroyed a good part of the roof and the second floor of the judicial institution of this city, located in the department of Valle del Cauca, 94 kilometers north of Cali, the regional capital.

“Attacks like those of tonight in Tuluá stop being vandalism and become terrorist acts. Peaceful protest is legitimate, violence is a crime,” said Colombian Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz, condemning the attack.

It is still unknown what or who started the blaze that the firefighters are trying to put out.

Tuluá on Tuesday saw clashes between the public forces and groups of protesters, and episodes of urban chaos, in a new day of protests that have taken place throughout the country since Apr. 28.

There have also been the greatest acts of violence, reports of looting and destruction of urban real estate by some people, and excessive use of force by the police.

Cali and the Valle del Cauca region and neighboring Cauca, greatly affected by violence from armed groups and poverty and unemployment, have been the epicenter of much of this social unrest.

Meanwhile, Argentinian social leader Juan Grabois was blocked by Colombian immigration authorities on Tuesday from entering the country with other members of an international mission to verify human rights violations in the protests.

“After a series of physical assaults recorded by numerous witnesses and security cameras, the Colombian government expels me from its territory for being a ‘state security risk,'” Grabois said on Twitter.

“They took away my documents and luggage. They put me on a flight to Lima without any explanation about my subsequent destination,” added Grabois, a lawyer, university professor and founder of the Movement of Excluded Workers (MTE) in Argentina.

However, Colombia Migration said in a statement that Grabois was the only member of the 20-person delegation who was not authorized to enter Colombia after refusing to “have his documents verified after the system issued an alert due to the expiry of his passport.”

The Colombian agency said that the activist also “disrespected the migration officer and the supervisor on duty,” so “he was denied admission in accordance with Article 2 of Decree 1727 of Dec. 21, 2020.”

María Elena Navarro, another member of the International Mission of Solidarity and Human Rights Observation, said in a video that “it is a clear decision of the national government to hamper the international inspection work that this delegation is going to do.”

The mission, comprising of a dozen Argentinian social organizations, arrived Tuesday at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, to “confirm, relieve and draw attention to the human rights situation” amid the protests.

The protests have so far claimed the lives of 42 people, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, while social organizations such as Temblores and the Institute for Development and Peace Studies say that 43 people have been killed due to alleged police violence.

Both protesters and a female police official have also denounced sexual abuse while authorities are still searching for 129 people who were reported missing. EFE


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