Colombia will investigate police officers who stood by as people fired on protestors.

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People hoist a banner saying “Colombia, we are all” during a march in Bogota, Colombia, May 30, 2021, in opposition to road blockades and violence following a month of national demonstrations. PHOTO: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Colombian authorities are looking into 10 police officers who permitted citizens to shoot at protesters in Cali, a high-ranking official claimed on Monday, while the attorney general’s office tied three additional fatalities to the riots.

Protests against President Ivan Duque’s government’s social and economic policies have raged in the Andean country for more than a month. The demonstrations were sparked by a now-withdrawn proposed tax reform.

Since the tax reform was withdrawn, protesters’ demands have expanded to include a basic income, opportunities for young people and an end to police violence, including the dissolution of the feared anti-riot unit ESMAD.

Protests have been marked by violence. The attorney general’s office on Monday said 20 deaths have been linked to demonstrations – three more than a previous tally – while rights groups report dozens more protesters have been killed by security forces.

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Colombia’s third-largest city Cali, which has become an epicenter for protests, once more saw bloodshed on Friday with civilians and even an off-duty agent of the attorney general’s office shooting at demonstrators, the attorney general said.

General Jorge Luis Vargas, director of Colombia’s national police, stated on Monday that an inquiry has been initiated to identify individuals who breached the law in Cali, and that information on officers who may have disobeyed the law or failed to execute their responsibilities has been forwarded to the military justice unit.

Cali Mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina said over the weekend that more than a dozen violent murders occurred in the city on Friday, as well as armed criminals firing at protestors in the presence of police.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, asked on Sunday for anyone responsible for the violence in Cali to be held accountable.

“It is essential that all those who are reportedly involved in causing injury or death, including state officials, are subject to prompt, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable,” she said.

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As the death toll rises, negotiations between the government and protest leaders have stalled. The government says protesters must condemn and reject road blocks before further negotiations take place. Protest leaders accuse the government of backtracking on earlier commitments.

The national strike committee has called for more protests to take place on Wednesday.


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