Unrest was sparked by the murder of an unarmed lawyer, Javier Ordoniz, in Bogota on Tuesday night, with police pinning him down and repeatedly jerking him off Taser for two minutes as he said “please, no more”.
The footage of the incident became increasingly viral.
Two nights of demonstrations devastated the capital, with 17 police kiosks being attacked on Wednesday night. Police beat and tear protesters and fire “low-lethal” baton rounds. Some protesters pelted stones at the police, which were returned by riot officials.
The government supplied figures of 10 dead but no details of where, when and how they died. A total of 209 civilians were injured along with 194 police.
Most of the unrest occurred in Bogota, although on Thursday night it spread to Medellin, Cali and Manizales – all cities in the western interior of the country.
Bogota’s newspaper El Espectador reported on Friday that authorities had determined Ordoniz died of a head-on collision while in custody. He was detained for drinking alcohol in public, which could lead to a fine in the capital.
In La Soledad, a middle-class city, protesters gathered Thursday evening in front of the remains of a police kiosk who had been towed the night before as heavily armored riot police knocked them down. While the protesters were largely peaceful – with people holding signs and playing drums – when a woman arrived under the guise of police, officers responded with flash-bangs and teargas.
“Cerdos asesinos“, Or “killer pigs”, the cry of the protesters as they ran for cover.
“We are sick of them,” said Laura, a government employee, who did not give her full name. “When we walk down the street, demanding bribes, we see them behaving as if they are just like us.”
Mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, on Friday morning Tweeted That police was not authorized to shoot at the protesters, saying that the officers had “disobeyed direct instructions”.
In the wake of Lopez’s revelations, analysts worry about a rogue police force. “There is obviously confusion over the role of the police and who is in charge of the police,” said Sergio Guzman, Bogota’s political risk analyst. “And this does not bode well for restoring public safety or confidence in the police.”
Colombia’s defense minister on Friday apologized on behalf of police for the killing of Ordoniz, although it is unlikely that widespread dissent first appeared during protests late last year that were interrupted by the coronus virus epidemic.
“This is a result of the systematic abuse of power of the police, not only across the board, but across the board,” said Cafe Carascal, an activist who protested this week. “People are sick of the fact that if Kovid-19 doesn’t kill them, the government will.”
President Ivan Duke said that all deaths in the protests would be swiftly investigated and that any misconduct by security forces would not be tolerated.