violence and fury

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violence and fury

By GILBERTO LOPES*

Rebellions and conflicts in Colombia and Israel.

– Good evening, Friday, May 7th, 7:40 pm. On the Cali-Palmira road, entering Palmira towards Cali, on the bridge over the Cauca River. A car entered shooting, went to the second barrier shooting and one of the girls from the brigade fell off the bridge, about 20 meters into the void. He fired many shots. Here we go… Three wounded, all with gunshot wounds. One seriously. Arbitrary executions, sexual violence, forced disappearances, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, arbitrary arrests, threats and harassment are the result of the behavior of the Colombian public forces in the two weeks of the strike that the country experienced. A provisional tally of cases showed 326 assaults; 72 deaths, of which 37 were the responsibility of the Esquadrão Móvel Antidistúrbios, the ESMAD, a body particularly hated for its aggressive and violent behavior.

Sunday afternoon was falling and new and sad news arrived: – Comrades! Things are getting out of hand in Cali. Rich people from stratum 6, from Ciudad Jardín, attacked the indigenous march together with the police. There are several wounded. Stratum 6 is the same sector that attacked protesters on May 3. The seriousness of the matter, according to a report in the newspaper El Espectador, “is that the inhabitants of this neighborhood, or at least their security guards, are usually armed”.

nightmare situation

In Cali, where the situation “has been a nightmare”, according to groups that monitor the repression of the protests, “it is estimated that 105 people were injured by firearms, tear gas and stun grenades used by agents of the ESMAD, GOES and National Police. Protesters were arbitrarily and violently taken to police stations at different “concentration points”, where they were beaten and tortured.

Remembering what Chile has learned – where this practice has left hundreds of people injured since the October 2019 protests – there are 27 cases of eye injuries. Of the 2.854 arrests, only 371 were reported to the courts. In the others, the prisoners, taken to the police stations, were mistreated and later released, without being presented to a guarantee judge. “The president does not want to retreat from the militarization of the country. We are all furious and powerless in the face of the brutality with which people are being raped, especially in Cali, in the municipality of Palmira, which is totally militarized,” says Verónica González, a Colombian student who is participating in the protests in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica.

A city that couldn't take it anymore

“Cali, X-ray of a city that couldn’t take it anymore”, is the title of the article that Joseph Casañas published last Saturday in the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. “Deaths, documented excesses by the security forces, vandalism and legitimate social demands marked the days of a historic protest”, says the article. “Neither in the United States because of George Floyd have I seen so much violence, nor in the yellow vests in France. This is the only country I've lived in where I see people being killed in cold blood and not even ashamed of it”, says a witness gathered in the city. “The gesture of the more than five thousand indigenous people who arrived from Cauca in the middle of the week is repeated in Meléndez, Sameco, Puerto Resistencia and Siloé, perhaps the most violent point since the mobilization began. The numbers of dead in that neighborhood are disparate. The leaders of the barricades speak of dozens, while the Prosecutor's Office says that it is still not possible to determine whether all the deaths are part of the protests”, adds the note.

At Casa de Nariño – the seat of the Colombian government – ​​“they still don't seem to understand that we are in fact in extraordinary circumstances and that, therefore, the answers are beyond manuals or the usual political agreements. Will they be able to understand this in time?”, asked the newspaper in its editorial last Saturday.

What's left standing now?

With almost half of its population living in poverty, with the peace process bogged down and paramilitary groups of various types controlling territories that were previously in guerrilla hands, Colombia is one of the countries where inequality, as measured by the Gini index, is 5,1, one of the highest in Latin America. After the explosion in Chile – a country at the forefront of neoliberal policies implemented more than 40 years ago by a dictatorship that is now over, but its policies are still in place – the fury erupted in Colombia.

“Colombia's famous orthodox model of neoliberal stability showed cracks for the first time in its history,” said the correspondent in a pitiful tone. with the BBC in Colombia, as the model was falling apart, similarly to the Chilean one. “Colombia has always been considered, at least abroad, as a stable democracy”, he said, without being able to specify the scenario to which he refers.

What's left standing now? Perhaps what Senator Gustavo Petro predicts: “a weak government, which only maintains itself with rifles. This is the sad paradox of the Duke government”. Petro made an appeal to the president, in a text recorded on May 4. He criticized him for his “eagerness to demonize peace”, purging the army and police high command “of those who were supporters of the peace process” and handing over command of both forces to former President Álvaro Uribe. “Today Duque is Uribe's prisoner,” he added, recalling that the president not only handed him over the public force, with its weapons, but also the money. Economy Minister Alberto Carrasquilla “only obeyed Uribe and the bankers”, says Petro.

Carrasquilla and his tax reform – with which he intended to raise around 6,3 billion dollars – were the first victims of the protest. Duque withdrew the bill he had presented to Congress and Carrasquilla resigned from his post. “You, President, forged the path of your own weakness. You let yourself be imprisoned by crazy old men, obsessed with conspiracy theories invented by today's Nazis. Free yourself! We'll help you, offered Petro. “Do not sink down the path of death. History will not forget you, ”he added. The truth is that the most extreme neoliberal models in Latin America, those that were built with the force of arms, are now crumbling as people take them by storm in the streets.

A look into the future?

For some, it is just an anticipation of what will happen on the continent and in the world, subjected to this policy in recent decades, especially after the collapse of Eastern European socialism and the end of the Soviet Union. Just eight months ago, still in the Trump administration, the governments of Colombia and the United States signed a five billion dollar agreement – ​​the Colombia Cresce plan –, which had the objective, among others, of creating conditions to end the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Since then, tension and sporadic armed actions on the border have increased.

The Lima Group, a coalition of conservative governments aligned with US policy in the hemisphere and intended to provide a regional political framework for such policies, withered. Hardly anyone remembers the “designated president”, Juan Guaidó. Transformed into a US base of operations in the region, always with the pretext of the fight against drugs, in June of last year an elite brigade was installed in Colombia to coordinate military intelligence work in the region. “This is the first time that this brigade works with a Latin American country, a fact that once again reaffirms the commitment of the United States to Colombia, its best ally and friend in the region,” said a statement from the US embassy in Bogota. In the Obama administration, seven other military bases had already been installed in the country.

“Death to the Arabs”

“These others were driving along a different street. But the style of repression is the same. And the consequences are similar.”

Two weeks ago, Jerusalem was rocked by violence when a gang of Israeli Jews invaded Palestinian neighborhoods in the West Bank chanting "death to Arabs," according to Khaled Elgindy, director of the Palestinian-Israeli Affairs Program at the Middle East Institute, based in Washington, published last week in the journal Foreign Policy. As they made their way through the city, he added, “the mobs threw stones at Palestinian homes and attacked those they suspected of being Arabs or leftists, even stopping cars along the main street, which divides occupied West Jerusalem from north to south, to check whether the drivers were either Israelis or Arabs, subjecting the latter to an improvised beating”.

The trouble started on April 13, says Elgindy, "around the beginning of Ramadan when Israeli authorities blocked the passage to the Old City at the iconic Damascus Gate in Palestinian East Jerusalem." “The closure touched on a sensitive issue for Palestinians in Jerusalem, who have been subjected for years to marginalization and denationalization at the hands of the Israeli government, which has left them few spaces in the city where the systematic eradication of Palestinian national, civic and cultural institutions are now government policy”. “Washington has allowed Israeli extremism,” reads the headline of Elgindy's article, which highlights Washington's role in advancing Jewish extremism in Israel. In the years of Benjamin Natanyahu's government – ​​he says –, the population of illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory rose from 490 to over 700 in twelve years.

None of this would have been possible without the support or indifferent eyes of the United States, he says. "Extremists, once relegated to the fringes of Israeli politics, are now in positions of power in both parliament and government."

 A former Israeli defense official described the atmosphere in the area as "a powder keg ready to explode", the British daily reported. The Guardian, while Netanyahu's government supported those evicting Palestinians from their homes to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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