Home BUSINESS Cali becomes Colombia’s “Capital of Resistance”

Cali becomes Colombia’s “Capital of Resistance”

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On a main street in the Colombian city of Cali are the names of the anti-government protesters killed in recent weeks: Nicolás G, Marcelo A, Jovita O, Yeisson A, Cristian M, Daniel A, Jeisson G.

Most people are less than 25 years old. The youngest Jeisson García is 13 years old.

Colombia has experienced a wave Violence in the past month. What started to protest Tax Reform It has evolved into a more radical call for a thorough reform of the country’s economic model. Protesters are angry at police brutality, inequality, corruption, lack of opportunities and many other problems. The hatred of Ivan Duque’s conservative government is obvious.

Although there have been deaths across the country, it is shocking that the number of deaths in Cali (a city of 2.3 million people in the country’s turbulent southwest) and the surrounding area of ​​Valle del Cauca is shocking .

Of the 66 people killed in the country, 38 were in Cali and another 11 were in the area. According to Indepaz, A non-governmental organization. In contrast, three people died in Bogota, the capital, and only one in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city. The Colombian government admitted fewer deaths.

“Kali has become the center of dissatisfaction,” said Sebastián Lanz of Temblores, a non-governmental organization that has been monitoring violence. “We have seen members of the security forces armed and attacking civilians who exercise their legal right to demonstrate.”

Duke visited Cali on Friday and announced a military deployment to break the blockade of protesters and try to restore calm.

A main street in Cali bears the names of the victims of the protest © Gideon Long/FT

The reason why Cali became Colombia’s “capital of resistance” is controversial.

Many residents blame poverty and inequality, Both have risen sharply During the pandemic, government statistics show that these problems are not more serious than elsewhere in Colombia.

Another explanation is Drug dealingThe Cali Cartel in the 1990s has collapsed, but the city is still flooded with cocaine and heavily armed violent criminals—more than Bogota or Medellin.

Cali’s murder rate is 48 per 100,000 inhabitants, much higher than Bogota (13) or Medellin (14), which has lost its reputation as the murder capital of Colombia.

There is a lot of confusion about who is doing the killing. NGOs say that security forces are responsible for the vast majority of deaths. The police stated that they never fired at peaceful protesters, and only aimed their weapons at criminals, saboteurs and those who fired at them first.

The government accused “terrorists”, “criminal groups” and left-wing guerrillas. It said the elements of the traditional Marxist guerrillas in this country- Falk And ELN-has infiltrated the protests.

Cali, Colombia map

Former left-wing guerrilla and now Cali analyst Diego Arias said there may be some truth to this statement. This is why the police in Cali faced such heavy weapons and responded in kind.

“The police in Cali feel that they are entering the war zone, not monitoring the protests,” he said. “When you are in war, you fire directly at the enemy instead of firing into the air.”

Recently, a 22-year-old police officer, Juan Sebastián Briñez (Juan Sebastián Briñez) and his colleagues were shot dead while trying to prevent people from being robbed in a supermarket in the impoverished neighbourhood of Cali . “I have never seen anything like this, nor have I heard so many shooting incidents,” said colleague Marvin Lisalda as he recovered from the wound in the hospital.

One of the more worrying aspects of the violence was the appearance of armed civilians who opened fire on protesters.In early May, they Attacked a convoy carrying indigenous activists Through the city, about 10 people were injured. The identity of the attacker is not yet known, but local residents blamed the hired thugs who worked for drug dealers.

There are other racial and ethnic dimensions to the protests. Cali has one of the largest black populations in Colombia, and some protesters call the city’s police force a racist institution.

Demonstration in Cali
Most of the demonstrations in Cali were peaceful during the day © Gideon Long/FT

There are also a large number of indigenous people in the southwest. On the first day of the protest, Cali’s indigenous activists demolished a statue of Sebastían Benalcázar, the Spanish who led the conquest of this part of Colombia in the 16th century.

Social media is flooded with information and misinformation. The creepy video shows that the bodies allegedly washed away in the Cauca River were allegedly abducted during the protests. The demonstrators said hundreds of people were “missing”.

Nevertheless, most of the protests were peaceful. In one such scene last week, thousands of people gathered in a park that had become a gathering point.

Parents with young children. The protesters waved the Colombian flag. Feminists, indigenous activists, Afro-Colombians, students and traditional leftists gathered under the scorching sun to listen to speeches and music.

The atmosphere is festive. The police stayed awake and the protesters left peacefully at dusk.

María Alejandra Lozada, a 26-year-old nurse, said: “There are people trying to stigmatize the protests and portray all of us as saboteurs, but there are all kinds of People,” she allocated time in public hospitals between protesting and treating Covid-19 patients.

But at night, the shooting and destruction began. In the impoverished neighbourhoods of Siloé and Calipso on the fringe of the city, gunshots can be heard many nights.On Tuesday night, the arsonist Destroyed the court In the nearby city of Tulua.

In recent days, there has been a strong opposition to violence and vandalism. Thousands of people dressed in white marched peacefully in Cali on Tuesday, calling for reconciliation and ending the bloodshed and blockade.

But there is no sign that the demonstrations will end soon.

“We must keep going and not lose momentum,” said Mar Sánchez, one of the organizers of the Cali protests. “We must also work hard to ensure that the enthusiasm generated by the protests is reflected in the 2022 elections. We cannot hold demonstrations for a month and wait for the elections to come and vote for the same elderly again.”



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