We have paused updating our blog due to the fact that the English media, and some blogs, reported that encapuchado’s kicked off the violence in Bogota last week, and were ultimately responsible for the chaos that ensured. The exception is this blog, from Bristol, UK, of all places, which brilliantly provides context and detailed reporting of what happened on 29th August and the outcome. It includes action that citizens can take to support the protests tomorrow, 4th September.
There was deeply biased reporting from the English-language media, where reporters and bloggers failed to place the violence in context and appeared to have conveniently ignored the fact that far more demonstrators were hurt, some seriously: i.e. they were killed. Immediately following the violence there was also not one single eye witness report from the side of the demonstrators who took part in taking on the riot police.
One organization suggested it was the police themselves who instigated the riot, and it is difficult to ascertain whether there were any people present who simply decided they had had enough of the horrific violence meted out to protestors and initiated an offensive or whether it was the police who went on the attack first and some protestors decided to resist by fighting back.
In their rush to condemn the encapuchado’s in the aftermath of the events of 29th August, nobody within the English-speaking press appears to have thought through whether these possible scenarios may be the case, less point out the harms that had been done to demonstrators who were not involved in any stone throwing, damaging or buildings, or attacks on the cops.
Even assuming there were attacks on the police by demonstrators, this has not been put into wider context. Given the lack of reporting of the side of the encapuchado’s in the English language press and blogs, and that we could not do justice to the Spanish language ones, we have held back and let time pass to give the events some perspective.
Much has been made of the lone woman who stood in front of riot police while they were attacked by protestors. Much less has been made of the footage where another group of riot police were cornered and a large groups of demonstrators successfully halted an attack on them. And even less has been made of a police riot in the backstreets, where the cops arrived on motorcycles and indiscriminately chased and tried to attack anybody within sight. We managed to locate a Spanish-language blog that shows these video’s [We urge caution in viewing the first video which shows a badly beaten young person; it is the second video that should be watched by all concerned citizens.]
The response of the government has been to send 50,000 troops onto the streets and into the provinces, and negotiate a deal with one group of workers to end their strike, leaving others more isolated – but continuing to protest. Bogota has been reported to have been effectively militarized. but far more worrying are the large numbers of troops who have been sent into Boyaca, the region that has seen months of resistance, not to mention human rights abuses against protestors.
As disappointing as it’s response to the violence in Bogota was, Colombia Reports at least has the decency to interview protest leaders in the department of Boyaca and report on the viscous actions of the riot police in the region, which has largely gone unreported by the press:
“Leading up to last Friday, protests in Boyaca were marred by widespread reports of police brutality and human rights violations. ESMAD forces across the department were accused of using excessive, indiscriminate violence in dealing with roadblocks and other protests, allegedly breaking into homes, gassing children and seniors not participating in the protests, destroying or stealing property, issuing death threats to farmers and journalists and preventing medical treatment from reaching protesters after violent encounters.
Now, after a presidential order brought a massive military presence to the department, Molina said she fears that a government crackdown is inevitable if protesters take to the streets again.
“[The government says it] sent 50,000 troops around the country, but looking around, you would think they’re all here in Boyaca. The roads, the public spaces, they are everywhere. And what will they do if the people of Boyaca try and take control of the highways like before? The highways are too important to [the Santos administration] for the army to let that happen.
“They are soldiers, all they know how to do is kill people.”
We support all forms of resistance and reject government attempts to taint the protestors as ‘terrorists’. That is merely a justification for the government, riot police and army to unleash further terror on an already battered and oppressed people.
Never before has the title of the Spanish blog we located been more apt: the heading is: ‘Lies and the Media [turn off the TV-shit]’ This protest is far from over yet.
- Swelling Colombian Protests Against Free Trade Met With Militarization (mintpressnews.com)
- Brutal Repression of National Strike in Colombia-Santos Declares Militarization of Bogotá (realdemocracybristol.wordpress.com)