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Killed by police in Colombia

25 Mayo 2021

Fuente : Washington Post, by Sarah Cahlan, Drea Cornejo, Anthony Faiola, Elyse Samuels and Steven Grattan May 20, 2021

Joan Nicolás García Guerrero was mourning the fallen from Colombia’s worst bout of civil unrest in years. Then, the candlelight vigil that the 26-year-old artist and father was attending in the city of Cali descended into chaos — a scene captured, like so much of the Colombian violence, by amateur video. García Guerrero, a front-line protester, had expressed a willingness to give his life for the cause. “Mother,” he had written in a text to his family on April 28, the day the demonstrations erupted. “We have to have a civil war, it’s painfully sad, but true.” Now, just after midnight on May 3, he was approaching police lines behind a cloud of acrid tear gas. In video obtained and analyzed by The Washington Post, a single shot is fired from what appears to be Colombian security forces. A heartbeat later, García Guerrero falls hard. Historic protests have been held in hundreds of cities and towns in Colombia. Nearly 1 million people have taken to the streets over the past month. Dozens of deaths, including those of a police officer and 14 civilians whose killings Human Rights Watch investigators have linked to excessive police force, are putting the nation’s militarized security forces under a global microscope. [Violence in Colombia protests escalates amid allegations of police excess] A Post examination of video footage involving four of the deaths shows how Colombian police appear to have crossed a lethal line.

The avalanche of videos underscores the power of viral images to hold officials to account. Colombian authorities, under mounting international pressure, have detained and indicted police officers in three of the four cases The Post examined. Authorities have been most active in cases in which videos have been the clearest and most widely shared. No arrests have been made in García Guerrero’s death, nor in several others in which protesters or bystanders were killed. The deaths of García Guerrero, Marcelo Agredo Inchima, Santiago Andrés Murillo Meneses and Brayan Fernando Niño Araque were captured on video. Some have become flash points, sparking outrage against police violence amid the already growing demonstrations for economic justice. Three of the deaths involved live fire — a level of force Colombian police are permitted to use only when confronting an “imminent threat of death or serious injury, or to prevent a particularly serious crime that involves a serious threat to life.” A Post analysis of the footage, including some that has not previously circulated publicly, illustrates the extent to which police appear to have overstepped their rules of engagement. Colombian government officials have blamed at least some of the violence on guerrillas and criminals that they say have infiltrated the ranks of the protesters. “I think that [the] combination of videos, media attention and Washington reaction is explosive for the government,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The impact in the U.S. of the George Floyd case, and the concept of Black Lives Matter, is also an element that creates the conditions for zero tolerance of police abuse.”

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