Colombia Riots for Seven Days Despite Violent Repression

Published May 7, 2021

Colombia Riots for Seven Days Despite Violent Repression

On the seventh day of anti-government demonstrations in the main cities of Colombia (Cali where the mobilization - and repression - is the most intense, Bogotá, Medellín, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Manizales, Ibagué, Pasto) several local newspapers speak of the night of Tuesday, May 4 as one of the most tense since the beginning, especially in the capital Bogotá, although the conservative president Iván Duque Márquez withdrew his plan to increase taxes, which had been the spark of the protests on April 28. Now that blood has been spilled, many are calling for the resignation of the President-elect (in 2018) and not just his Minister of Finance, while the poorest are taking the opportunity to destroy and ransack the immediate structures of the state and capital (starting with police stations and buses, and officially 313 commercial establishments and 94 banks). If during the day huge demonstrations (121 blockades, 59 rallies and 93 marches throughout the country, on Tuesday, in 268 municipalities of 27 departments) are taking place during a series of general strikes which is one week old, the confrontations, looting and especially the incendiary destruction in the evening do not stop.

In Bogotá on the evening of May 4, 25 neighborhood police stations (CAI) were attacked: “3 burned, 3 others completely destroyed by looting and 19 out of order by vandalism. And the most outrageous one is located in the Aurora neighborhood, where a dozen cops were inside when it burned. This is obviously a fair return of the flame, after the forty or so demonstrators killed by the uniforms, without even mentioning the hundreds of injured (846 officially, of which 22 lost an eye) or the 89 desaparecidxs counted, sometimes abducted in the street by plainclothes cops or the military. It is also worth noting that the Minister of Defense reported 216 shootings against cops in one week, and 579 cops injured in one week, including 25 hospitalized.

The military has not only been deployed in Cali since last Friday, but also on several highway tolls with armored vehicles to protect them from the attacks of the last few days, to control the movements from one city to another, to maintain a minimal supply of goods which is mainly done by trucks (and to avoid their looting at these stopping points)… and to have a good pretext to strike the spirits with butchers in fatigues who bring an additional level of state terrorism against the revolting people

In the same vein as the destruction of neighborhood comicos, we can point out the warm initiative of Cali rioters, who managed to flush out the lair of the fierce anti-riot cops (Esmad, Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios) recently arrived in the city: the famous La Luna Hotel, near the city center. After six hours of fierce confrontations all day long on May 3, with more injuries and businesses destroyed or looted, demonstrators managed to set fire to the hotel structure that was too hospitable for the assassins, destroying the entire second floor (in addition to the rest).

The other big target since the beginning of the riots, a bit like in Chile at the end of 2019, are the expensive means of public transport, and all the more so since a series of general strikes is underway (Paro Nacional). In her daily review, the capital’s mayor Claudia López said Wednesday, May 5, that 30 transverse buses and 74 additional suburban buses had been “vandalized”, as well as 8 stations of the Transmilenio. As a result, their closing hours of service have been reduced from 6 pm to 3 pm, and 35% of the city’s stations will remain closed. The current total, in seven days of revolt, is therefore nearly 800 buses (469 red Transmilenio and 317 blue SITP), plus 45 of 96 bus stations partially or totally damaged (burned).

Cali, night of May 1st, fire of the bus station Buitrera (MIO)