Excmo. Sr. Presidente Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia
Sr. Fiscal Francisco Barbosa Delgado, Attorney General of Colombia
January 11, 2022
We are deeply concerned about the use of brutal repression by the National Police and its Anti-Riot Mobile Squad (ESMAD) against your citizens who are protesting against fare increases in Bogota’s TransMilenio transport system. In December, TransMilenio announced that the public transportation fare would rise from US$0.37 to US$0.64 (an increase of 150 pesos colombianos) as of today. Lower-income workers, who will be most negatively impacted, began organizing last week to express their outrage.
In the evening hours of January 5, just hours after Mayor Claudia Lopez rejected a proposal by Defense Minister Diego Molano to militarize some areas of Bogota, ESMAD agents arrived with two military tanks at the Molinos neighbhorhood of Bogotá. They threw stun grenades at demonstrators and fired tear gas indiscriminately. ESMAD detained a young journalist and kicked him. Officers also apprehended a young woman; as of January 6, her whereabouts were still unknown.
As protests multiplied today, in neighborhoods like Usme and Kennedy, as many as 2,500 police and ESMAD agents were deployed to public transportation stops. Demonstrators held signs like “Bread or Bus Ticket?” It is reported that many demonstrators have been arrested.
We urge that you:
- conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the excessive force used by the National Police and ESMAD on January 5 and hold to accountability any officers who inflicted violent harm on protesters
- remove ESMAD from the points of public protest around the city
- respect the right of your citizens to assemble and demonstrate without fear of harm or arrest
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martínez