Conflicts & War

Demonstrators in Bolivia try to topple Columbus monument

La Paz, Aug 2 (EFE).- A small group of Bolivian protesters on Monday tried to topple a monument to Christopher Columbus in La Paz, painting the statue’s face black, apparently knocking off its nose and leaving a noose around its neck on the local Day of the Agrarian, Production and Community Revolution.

About 20 people arrived on Monday at El Prado Avenue in the Bolivian capital wearing native ponchos, playing indigenous music and waving the “wiphala,” the multicolor indigenous flag.

The monument is surrounded by a “metallic barrier” so that acts of vandalism cannot be committed upon it, having been the target of such attacks multiple times in the past where the statue had been painted and otherwise vandalized. But despite that relatively minimal protection, a couple of the demonstrators climbed onto the monument, according to videos posted on the social networks.

One of those protesters in a poncho and an Andean cap used a rope to climb up to the head of the statue to paint the face black and place a noose around its neck with the potential aim of trying to topple the monument, according to the videos.

The police soon arrived on the scene, however, and arrested at least two people while demonstrators jeered them but several passersby who observed what was happening applauded.

The director of the La Paz City Hall’s Cultural Heritage Department, Ovidio Salvatierra, said that one demonstrator “whacked” the monument and mutilated the statue’s nose.

The City Hall filed a complaint against those responsible for the damage to try and prevent such a situation from recurring.

“Really, these acts of vandalism that are happening in La Paz must be rejected because all these public decorations belong to us all,” Salvatierra said.

He added that, given the situation, authorities must consider “transferring” the statue to another site where “they value it more” so that similar “acts of vandalism” do not recur.

Monday is the Day of the Agrarian, Productive and Community Revolution, which originally was celebrated as the Day of the Indian commemorating the country’s 1953 agrarian reform program.

However, in 2007, the government of Evo Morales changed the name of the holiday because of the pejorative connotation that the word “Indian” had acquired in Bolivia.

The Columbus monument has been doused with red paint on several occasions during a variety of demonstrations, skulls and anti-colonialism messages have been painted on it and there have been calls for it to be removed.

The monument was unveiled in 1926 and is the work of Italian sculptor Giuseppe Graciosa. It bears Latin and Italian inscriptions on the back of the base, given that it was a gift to the public from the Italian community in La Paz.


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