As violence escalated in Columbia during anti-government protests, the international community decried the use of force by security officers in the country which have led to several deaths over the past couple of days.
The United Nations, United States, European Union and rights bodies joined a chorus of criticism after official data showed 19 people were killed and 846 injured in running clashes with the security forces.
Colombia’s human rights ombudsman — a state agency independent from the government — said 89 people were listed as “disappeared.”
Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets in demonstrations that began last Wednesday against a proposed tax reform but have since morphed into broader protests against the government of President Ivan Duque.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked roads in several parts of the country, coinciding with fresh demonstrations in the capital Bogota and in Cali in the west of the country.
Cali, Colombia’s third-biggest city and the worst-affected by the ongoing unrest, has had soldiers patrolling its streets since last Friday on government orders.
The Ministry of Defense has deployed 47,500 uniformed personnel countrywide. In Cali alone, 700 soldiers, 500 riot police officers, 1,800 other police and two helicopters have been put into operation.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced “profound shock” on Tuesday at an overnight incident in Cali in which police allegedly “opened fire” on demonstrators, reportedly killing and injuring several.
Cali in the crossfire “What we can say clearly is that we have received reports, and we have witnesses, (of) excessive use of force by security officers, shooting, live ammunition being used, beatings of demonstrators and as well detentions,” spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.
Colombian ombudsman Carlos Camargo said a member of his office, a representative of the attorney general tasked with probing official wrongdoing, and three human rights activists were attacked by public forces while assisting detainees in Cali on Monday night.—Agencies