At least 42 people have been killed in near-daily protests against the Colombian government since April 28, the country’s human rights ombudsman said on Tuesday.
All but one — a member of the armed forces — were civilians, the ombudsman’s office said.
The updated toll makes these the bloodiest demonstrations since Colombia signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group in 2016, ending decades of civil war.
It is lower than the 47 deaths reported by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who claim at least 39 were the direct result of “police violence.”
The Colombian Ministry of National Defense has reported 849 police officers injured in clashes — 12 by gunfire — and has not updated the number of civilians wounded since Monday last week, when it stood at 306.
Colombian President Ivan Duque on Tuesday said that the security forces had acted with “absolute obedience to the constitution” and that any “violations due to individual conduct” would be investigated.
Student leader Jennifer Pedraza accused Duque’s government of being “complacent about the excessive use of public force,” and joined a call for fresh protests yesterday.
The protests, initially against a proposed tax reform, soon morphed into a broader demonstration of anti-government sentiment in a country battling ongoing violence and economic hardship made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tax reform bill has since been withdrawn, but the protests have continued despite a forceful response criticized by the international community.
Two protesters who sustained critical injuries during clashes have died in hospital, their families and NGOs announced on Tuesday.
In a Twitter post, Duque expressed sympathy after the death of Lucas Villa, 37, who was shot several times during a peaceful march in Pereira, western Colombia.
The other was 20-year-old Alejandro Zapata, who an NGO said was gravely injured by riot police during a demonstration in Bogota.
The police on Monday announced that five officers had been suspended and another 62 were under investigation.
The UN, the EU and Organization of American States, including the US, have denounced the excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies during the demonstrations.
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