Colombia Protests: Police Pressure, Constructed for Conflict, Finds a New One

On the time, the federal government hoped to professionalize and depoliticize the job by consolidating a fragmented system right into a nationwide power, mentioned Juan Carlos Ruíz, a professor and safety skilled at Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario.

By the 2000s, the police had turn into a vital participant in a counterinsurgency technique geared toward rooting out the FARC, by which the navy cleared rebels from territory and the police held that floor. The technique labored, forcing the rebels to barter. And it earned the police “very excessive ranges of citizen belief,” mentioned Paul Angelo, a fellow on the Council on International Relations.

However because the peace deal, little has modified throughout the police division.

Juan Manuel Santos, who was president when the deal was signed, had lengthy supported shifting the police out of the protection ministry. However the thought had been unpopular with the armed forces, partially as a result of the police convey cash and manpower into the ministry, Mr. Angelo mentioned. By the point Mr. Santos had signed the peace deal, he had little time left in workplace, and even much less political capital. The change was by no means made.

Now, police reform advocates are once more pushing to maneuver the 140,000-officer power from the protection division into the inside ministry — and to prioritize human rights coaching, restrict weaponry, and check out officers who commit crimes in atypical courts as an alternative of navy ones.

In an interview, the pinnacle of the nationwide police, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, mentioned he had offered a reform plan to the nation earlier this yr. However the police shouldn’t be moved out of the protection ministry, he mentioned.

“The state of affairs of drug trafficking and unlawful teams at the moment doesn’t permit it,” he mentioned, calling these points “the primary drawback in Colombia.”

The protests started in late April, when Mr. Duque proposed a tax overhaul meant to assist shut a fiscal gap exacerbated by the pandemic. Already, the nation was on edge: After a yr of Covid-related restrictions, the outbreak was solely getting worse, together with poverty, inequality and joblessness.

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