Los Ángeles/Bogotá, May 11 (EFE).- Violence by police forces is a scourge of societies across the Americas, an apparently incurable social ill that has penetrated much of the continent despite widespread calls for gun control and greater respect for human rights.
Countries such as the United States, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile have been the scene of episodes of extreme use of force, leaving dozens of victims in their wake.
The root causes of police violence differs across the region: in Colombia, which has lived through decades of uninterrupted civil conflict between the government and various armed drug trafficking rebel groups, armed police and soldiers are a regular sight on the country’s streets.
The militarization of official security forces has contributed to the ongoing violence and the recent deadly protests that left at least 27 people dead and dozens more missing are just the latest example of heavy-handed police tactics in response to protesters denouncing proposed tax reforms.
In the United States, where police forces have been increasingly weaponized for years, a wave of protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality swept the nation last year after an unarmed African American man was murdered by a white officer.
That and countless other incidents of police violence against ethnic minorities have renewed an often bitter debate in the US on police tactics and the authorities’ inconsistent treatment of protesters, especially if they are “black or brown”, says civil rights lawyer, V. James DeSimone.
He believes that the US’ heavy-handed approach to quelling the unrest last year at Black Lives Matter protests has provided governments in Latin America with a tacit approval of their own violent tactics.
“I have little doubt if other countries feel like if the US is treating its own people in this way with certain levels of oppression, and even use of deadly force on individuals – if that is going on in Central and South America, it is not going to be met with any resistance by the US,” DeSimone tells Efe.
Police forces in Latin American nations that are under US influence will also feel emboldened by other tactics employed in North America, such as the use of tasers or other restraints against non-threatening suspects.
“Amnesty International describes electro shocking someone with a taser who is in a passive position as torture,” he points out.