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The army has spread to Colombia after protests linked to the epidemic

A Colombia powder keg is about to explode.

Over the past eight days, a wave of protests has engulfed this South American country of 50 million, whose recent history has been marked by civil wars, cocaine cartels and deep divisions.

Now it is the right-wing government Dealing with the epidemic that caused the cap to blow up.

Amidst the third wave of contagion, with a slow vaccination program, and after a year of strict restrictions that increased poverty and misery, President Ivan Duque launched a package of laws that would have raised a number of taxes. The reason: the central government budget deficit is growing rapidly.

But it was not common. Tens of thousands have demonstrated against Islah for just over a week, often met with brutal police efforts. At least 19 deaths were reported, including 18 civilians, and hundreds were injured.

At least 19 people, almost all of them civilians, were killed in the past week in unrest in Colombia.

Photo: Daniel Garzon Herazo / NurPhoto / Shutterstock

There is also information about About 30 “disappeared”. Both the United Nations and the European Union have criticized what human rights organizations describe as police violence.

President Ivan Duque believes the country is prone to “low intensity urban terrorism” with links to left-wing extremists – but on Sunday he still pulls off the tax reform.

The question is whether this is enough. Because the protests are continuing – and escalating.

The night before Wednesday, there were films on social media showing near-war scenes in poor areas of Bogota and Cali. Army and police helicopters flew low over rooftops in impoverished areas like Bosa in southern Bogota. Other films show buildings in flames.

Mayor of Bogotá, Claudia Lopez said on Wednesday evening that activists had torched at least one terminal building.

They surrounded the police station and tried to burn it down, while our police were surrounded. How can you do that? The mayor, who stated that 25 local police stations had been attacked and that the army had now been called in “to secure the center buildings and the prison,” said the mayor.

Anti-government protests in Bogota on May 4.

Anti-government protests in Bogota on May 4.

Photo: Daniel Garzon Herazo / NurPhoto / Shutterstock

A serious problem facing Colombian journalists trying to verify information like this – or movies posted online – is that the police and activists often expose them to violence as well.

Watching what is happening in Cali and Bogota at the moment is very risky. We documented 70 cases of attacks on journalists in the past week alone, of which the police carried out 40 cases. In at least five cases, these have been extrajudicial arrests of journalists, says Jonathan Bock, president of Flip, an organization that works for press freedom in Colombia in cooperation with, among others, Reporters Without Borders.

He is anxious That some opinion leaders and politicians are manipulating the idea of ​​shutting down the mobile phone network and the Internet.

In the situation we are living in now, it is positive that the citizens are able to photograph and document what is happening. Of course, it is important to check the content. The solution, Jonathan Bock says, cannot be censorship.

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