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From the streets to jail: protesters denounce “witch hunt” in Colombia

Disenchantment first pushed them to protest in Colombia. Then the clashes with the police, the dead. When the streets were silenced, a “witch hunt” ended with the arrest of almost 2,000 protesters, social organizations denounce.

In Paipa and Sogamoso, in the department of Boyacá (northwest), seven young people were arrested on November 22.

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“The prosecution presents us as an organized radical group that is dangerous for society and has an irrational hatred towards the police”, Law student Juliana Higuera (21 years old) tells AFP.

Being a single mother of Salomé (5) earned her the house by jail. Five of his friends are still behind bars.

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Brigget Supelano (22) suffered the same fate as Juliana for her son Adrián (4), who witnessed the arrest at dawn. DScores of policemen banged on their doors when they slept. They were captured simultaneously and some were taken in private vans, as reported.

“Just for wanting to change the country, for fighting for our rights. We did nothing wrong ”, sustains the young woman holding back crying.

With no education or work, Brigget raises her son amid deficiencies, aggravated by a blood disorder that forces her to frequently enter the hospital.

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The days were mostly peaceful, although there were road blockades, destruction and clashes with the public force which, according to the Ombudsman, left almost 60 civilians and two uniformed men dead.

“The night of the pencils”

The prosecution reported the arrest as part of the social outbreak of 1,925 people, of which 1,464 are already free. The entity did not specify whether the remaining 461 are still detained. The Ministry of Defense talks about “259 captures of criminals and criminals of the First Line”, a faction of protesters tasked with repelling police attacks.

In Boyacá, the four men and three women were indicted for conspiracy to commit a crime, possession and trafficking of dangerous substances, and violence against a public servant.

“The case resembles the Argentine film ‘The Night of the Pencils'”, denounces center-left councilman Diego Cancino. “The persecution of the protest passes and, later, when things are calmer, when spirits are calmer, prum! The barrage of judicial persecution is coming ”, Explain.

Colombia There is an unprecedented protest movement since 2019, which periodically pushes thousands of people to the streets in one of the most unequal countries in the world, in which 42% of its 50 million inhabitants live in poverty.

This time the police crackdown fueled discontent and sparked a wake-up call from the UN. Without a defined leadership, young people called for police reform and a more supportive state.

“This is not going to daunt us. Being a human rights defender is not a crime, protesting is not a crime “says activist Juliana, whom the prosecution accuses of leading the alleged group that made up the seven detainees.


From a police station, the captured attended three days of virtual hearings. The prosecution presented the statement of a witness and telephone interceptions in which some of the detainees spoke of “gasoline”, “gunpowder” and roadblocks.

These people not only “They created an organized radical group, but in none of their calls did they seek a legitimate end, always the only purpose of this group was direct confrontation. Here there is no struggle of a people, nor a social struggle, here there is a direct struggle of hatred and vandalism “, launched the prosecutor of the case.

Videos show hooded men destroying buildings. Although the defendants cannot be identified, the prosecutor assured that “the convocation, leadership and authorization to be there was at the head of this group.”

A judge determined that these seven young people are a “danger to society” and will not be able to defend themselves in freedom. The lawyers appealed the decision.

“For thinking differently, do they want to kill them, do they want to lock them up, do they want to shut their mouths?” Esperanza Ávila wonders next to a pile of photographs of her son, Julián Barón (20), one of the seven detainees.

Because of her academic achievements, she received a university scholarship in Bogotá and had the chance to become the family’s first professional, she says, moved. Her father is a firefighter and Esperanza runs a fast food stand.

The arrest was followed by constant fear. Detained at home, Juliana experiences the most “painful” Christmas.

“I’m scared all the time, even at this moment my hands are shaking”, he confesses.


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