After a month of protests in which 46 people were injured in the eyes from tear gas and rubber bullets from the police, a Colombian politician aroused anger by saying that supporters of anti-poverty demonstrations should “stop crying in one eye.”
“Do not deceive Colombians, do not fool the international community, and stop crying in one eye,” Paula Holguín, a senator from the ruling Centro Democracy party, told the opposition politicians during a speech on the ground Wednesday afternoon.
Since the protests erupted in April, the police response has been brutal. At least 43 protesters were killed by the officers, according to local human rights monitor, Templores, with increasing reports of arbitrary detention, torture and sexual abuse of protesters at the hands of the police.
Forty-six people were injured in the eye, prompting speculation that the police were deliberately seeking to blind the protesters. a A similar tactic was used by the police in Chile During the wave of unrest that started there in late 2019.
“We are concerned that Holguín’s speech legitimizes acts of violence by state forces,” said Alejandro Lanz, Director of Temblores. “These expressions of violence, coming from representatives of the ruling parties, have a physical effect on the streets.”
President Ivan Duque and his allies have tried to blame the protests on opposition politicians and reject leftist rebel groups that did not align with the 2016 peace process that formally ended the country’s 52-year civil war.
Holguín’s impassioned speech, which he gave before the Senate vote on whether the Colombian defense minister should be blamed for the police response to the violence, also referred to property damage caused by protesters.
On Tuesday evening, a court in the southwestern city of Tulua was completely burned down amid scenes of chaos and vandalism. Roadblocks set up by demonstrators also impeded the flow of food, gasoline and medical supplies in certain areas of the country.
“She believes that human rights are not for everyone, but only for those you care about,” Holguín said in her speech to lawmakers, and went on to accuse rights groups of inflating statistics on police brutality. The senator later claimed that her comments had been taken out of context and manipulated on social media.
The reaction was swift, with a prominent activist, Kathryn Gavenau, Calling the ruling Holguín party To allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to enter the country and monitor the behavior of police and protesters, which the government is resisting.
Another Twitter user He asked succinctly: “How many Colombians who only have one eye can see more than Paula Holguín?”