Who protects Colombians?

Massacres, murders, police shooting at civilians. Colombia, country of magical realism, seems to have become the new epicenter of violence in Latin America.

democracia Abierta
24 September 2020, 4.19pm
Demonstrations Against The Rape Women In Bogota
Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto/PA Images

September 9, 2020, 00:45 a.m: "Fine me." These were the last words of Javier Ordóñez, a 45-year-old lawyer.

The events, according to his friend Wilmer Salazar, who was with Javier that morning in Bogotá, Colombia, unfolded like this:

On September 8, around midnight, Javier Ordóñez, Wilder Salazar and Juan David Uribe left Ordóñez's apartment to buy a bottle of liquor, as many Colombians do when they get together. They went to a nearby park where they were approached by a motorized police patrol with two policemen. Ordóñez exchanged a few words with the uniformed men and Wilder told him to go back to the house to listen to music. They did.

They walked, slowly. When they were close to the building, the same motorized patrol arrived from behind. As he passed by, Salazar recounted, one of the policemen told Ordóñez "you are not getting away, and there will be no fines." Javier turned around and said “What is up with you? What is your problem?" At that moment, and without a word, one of the policemen gets off the bike, takes out the taser gun and fires the first shot at Ordóñez. Salazar hears the discharge clearly. Ordóñez falls to the ground and another policeman gets on top of him to try to immobilize him. From then on, Javier is given at least eight more shocks despite the fact that he was already immobilized. On the ground, they rip his shirt off and hit him in the face. Discharges are no longer on top of clothing, but directly to the body. Ordóñez begs again and again "No more, please no more", but the shocks continue.

More police arrive and handcuff Salazar and Ordóñez, while Uribe records everything. They are taken to the CAI (Comando de Acción Immediata) of VillaLuz, where they leave Salazar in a corner while they continue to verbally and physically attack Ordoñez. They throw him at Salazar's feet, remaining in a fetal position. Police only approach Ordoñez to attack him more. More police arrive and, although they see Ordóñez almost unconscious and with breathing problems, they do nothing. A friend of Salazar comes to ask for him and they tell her that he is not there, he feels panic. Then, shortly after, Uribe arrives and, although they tell him the same thing, he forcibly enters and sees them. He runs to help Ordóñez, but he can't. Uribe calls an ambulance and leaves with Salazar and Ordóñez to the María del Lago clinic. They drive fast. Doctors and nurses do not waste a second and enter Ordóñez, completely disconcerted, to the emergency room. Shortly after, a doctor comes out and tells Salazar that she is very sorry, but they couldn't help his friend.

One in the morning on September 10, a night that will be recorded as the trigger for the darkest protests against police brutality the region has seen.

The big question is for the government: Is that the kind of protection that Bogota citizens have?

That same day, September 10, the news spread like wildfire. The video taken by Uribe, in which a policeman is seen delivering multiple taser blasts on Ordóñez's body, who, in turn, begs to stop while he is immobilized, goes viral on social networks. The protests begin that very day, and with them comes the horror.

Mass protests

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bogotá to protest the police brutality that surrounded Ordóñez's death. Between September 10 and 12, at least 12 civilians were killed. Ten of them were young people under the age of 30 and several, a number to be confirmed, were shot by the police. Some even died, although they were not part of the demonstrations, they were only passing home from work.

What generates concern, anguish and even fear is when, in the history of the continent, policemen had been seen shooting civilians.

We had seen the military, but policemen, never.

To this situation, other excesses of the police are added, such as scratching commemorative murals of the victims, as in the case of Julieth Martínez.

On September 21 there were 22 protests in Bogotá. All were peaceful and the police were prohibited from carrying weapons. They could only use bobbins.

In the end, although there was commotion over the burning of CAIs and the destruction of public space, the big question is for the Government: Is that the kind of protection that Bogota citizens have?

Javier Ordóñez died in a CAI in the early morning of September 10, 2020. The police version, dated Monday, September 21, is that Ordóñez hit himself with the walls of the CAI and that is why he died. The video that circulates in networks, the testimonies of his friends and the medical reports, however, say otherwise.

"A patient is admitted without vital signs, pupils dialated and signs of death, dorsal lividity, the time of death is decreed (...)", reads the medical history of citizen Javier Humberto Ordóñez Bermúdez.

Since the beginning of the year, massacres have only increased: from 5 in January to 12 in September

Javier was killed. Allegedly, by two policemen, two uniformed men in charge of protecting the well-being of Bogota's citizens. It seems that Javier was killed by those who had one job: to protect him.

What is forgotten

Javier Ordóñez's death is a tragedy. Another of the many that mourns Colombia this year. Although the gaze of the country and the world is focused on police abuse, there is another abuse that cannot go unnoticed: Colombia, a country that signed a Peace Agreement in 2016, is today the scene of massacres again. Massacres that, week after week, continue to create panic in the regions, without anyone doing anything about it.

According to the latest list of the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace, Indepaz in Spanish, 61 massacres have happened so far in 2020 in Colombia.

In those 61 massacres, 246 people have been killed. The department with the highest number of massacres is Antioquia, with 14, followed by Cauca and Nariño, with 9 each.

Since the beginning of the year, these massacres have only increased. From 5 in January to 12 in September.

Faced with this and with the case of Ordóñez, the government's inaction and the treatment they give to an issue that even the United Nations has described as "chilling" is outrageous.

In August, the president of Colombia, Iván Duque, referred to the massacres as multiple homicides, thus denying the violence of these events.

Although the police abuse that litters the streets of the capital is serious, what happens in the regions is also serious. If we add to this that more than 215 social leaders have already been assassinated this year alone, the situation is very serious. If, in addition, we include the count of murdered FARC-EP ex-combatants, 43 in 2020, the figures are typical of a country at war, of a horror movie.

The truth is that violence seems to have become commonplace in Colombia, and both local governments and the national government do not seem to want to notice. The questions, however, remain the same: who orders the police to shoot to kill? Who is responsible for the murdered social leaders? Who is massacring Colombians in the regions? Who protects Colombians?

The first and last responsibility lies with the government. But the answer remains "we will see."

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