After twelve days of protests in Colombia, the situation is becoming increasingly tense in Santiago de Cali, a city located in the department of Valle del Cauca, and current focus of demonstrations.
While Cali is facing a severe shortage of fuel and essential goods of the basic food basket, such as sugar and meat, the confrontations between demonstrators and the police are intensifying and prolonging into the night.
Numerous people wearing hoods or covering their faces have begun to roam the streets of Cali, blocking the access roads to numerous neighborhoods and charging citizens money to allow them to reach their destinations.
In the Siloé neighborhood, there have been several confrontations with the police, where shots have been exchanged between the security forces and hooded individuals. The police have even seized long weapons from alleged demonstrators.
Police officers are not safe off duty either, as was the case with patrolman Angel Gabriel Padilla, who while in civilian clothes was recognized by people in the middle of the demonstrations and stabbed 27 times. The uniformed officer remained unconscious for 3 days after the attack.
More than 99 policemen have been attacked with sharp weapons in the middle of the country’s protests, several have been assaulted off duty, and one, Captain Jesús Alberto Solano, died in Soacha at the beginning of the demonstrations after being approached by vandals who recognized him and stabbed him five times.
On the side of the demonstrators there is also concern, as they denounce that the police have come to shoot firearms to dissipate peaceful protests, and allegedly wait in hospitals to take away people with gunshot wounds.
The Ombudsman’s Office called in a statement for an investigation into 19 violent deaths during the demonstrations in Cali. The police claim that there have been 10 deaths, of which four occurred in the context of the demonstrations.
Protests in Colombia have become the stage for armed confrontation
Police warn that members of criminal organizations such as the ELN and FARC dissidents are infiltrating the demonstrations, as well as criminal gangs taking advantage of the chaos to execute vendettas of their own in the city of Cali.
Some protesters also claim that white civilian vehicles have been patrolling areas of Cali and opening fire on protestors at night.
Tensions escalated further when protesters intercepted an unmarked police van. In the vehicle were members of the police in civilian clothes, who had to run away from the demonstrators, and according to the members of the strike, the officers allegedly opened fire, a version that the police have not confirmed.
In the middle of the demonstrations, members of the minga (the guard of the indigenous political groups) who have arrived in Cali in recent weeks captured two police officers dressed in civilian clothes and wearing jackets.
On Sunday a shootout broke out in the neighborhood of La Maria when members of the minga vandalized cars near a gas station and chased passersby with machetes.
In the midst of the fight, gunfire started flying everywhere, scattering Cali residents and minga members. Another video shows an armed person shooting at what appears to be a concentration of the minga while shouting “they mounted us“.
Another video shows a hooded man telling civilians that until today they will be able to trade and move around normally, because starting on Monday. an armed strike will begin.
While tensions escalate in Cali, President Ivan Duque insists on meeting in Bogotá with the representatives of the Strike Committee. In his last speech, he announced the mobilization of the public forces in Cali. Duque met with the police in the morning hours in the Valle del Cauca city and quickly returned to Bogotá.
The city’s mayor, Jorge Ivan Ospina, has been unable to de-escalate the situation, and was chased by a mob when he tried to address the protesters.
For its part, the governor’s office of Valle del Cauca has decided to restrict the entry of any vehicle other than supply vehicles into the department. Priority will be given to vehicles carrying fuel, health supplies, vaccines and food.
Last Friday the president met with the leaders of the coalition of the decent, led by the former mayor of Medellín and former governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, together with senator Jorge Enrique Robledo of the Polo Democrático, Iván Marulanda of the Partido Verde, Angela María Robledo, the former vice presidential formula of Gustavo Petro, and Humberto de la Calle, former chief negotiator of the Havana agreement with the FARC. All these negotiations took place at the Palacio de Nariño in Bogotá, Cali will have to wait for now.