Translated by David Milan
Human rights organizations in Colombia declared on Tuesday, May 4th that “the Colombian state has declared war against the peaceful protests” that have been taking place all over the country, epicentered in Cali, since April 28th. The human rights organization Temblores recorded at least 31 dead protesters, 216 victims of physical violence from the police, 814 arbitrary arrests, 21 people wounded in the eyes, and 10 cases of sexual violence.
“They’re shooting to kill at the people who are protesting. They’re shooting to kill at the people crying over their dead. They’re shooting to kill at the people helping the wounded. They’re shooting to kill at the human rights people. They’re shooting to kill at the people of Cali,” said a human rights defender during a press conference held the morning of Tuesday May 4th to denounce the brutal repression of demonstrators in Cali the night before.
“We must publicly denounce the operation that occurred in Cali yesterday, in which police used firearms and shot indiscriminately against hundreds of protesters as well as health and human rights teams. We must reject the military response to social protest,” stated one of the representatives of the human rights organizations.
According to them, at the time of the press conference the numbers of people wounded, arrested, and dead from the previous night’s police attack were still unknown. “We couldn’t do our job; we had to protect ourselves in neighbors’ houses. There’s no guarantee for human rights work in these moments.”
The human rights defenders said there were more than 30 police officers firing directly at people. “We demand that the state take responsibility for the massacre being perpetrated in Cali.”
The organizations reported that there were attacks on journalists who tried to record the military operation. “The house they were using for shelter was also hit.”
Ambulances have also been a target. “They’re shooting at the ambulances. They’re not letting them come in to pick up the wounded. They’re taking the wounded out of the hospitals and we don’t know where they’re bringing them.”
Furthermore, state the organizations, civilian groups are self-organizing to turn guns against the protesters. “We’ve seen groups of people in pickup trucks going out to attack the demonstrators, all with the complicity of state forces.”
“Instead of solving structural problems, [the government’s] reaction is repression, death, and criminalization,” say the organizations.