This Friday’s ambush that resulted in the murder of seven police officers in southwestern Colombia is the most serious attack committed in the country since Gustavo Petro became president, who did not hesitate to consider it a sabotage of his proposal to “complete peace”
The attack was carried out with explosives in the village of Corozal against a police unit that was traveling in a truck after a day of work in the village of San Luis, in the rural area of Palermo, in the department of Huila.
The government initially reported eight deaths but later the police specified in a statement that there were seven. Among them, three assistants aged 18, 19 and 20 who had only been in the institution for three months.
The victims were the mayors Wilson Cuéllar Losada and Luis Alberto Sabi Gutiérrez; patrolmen Duberney Carreño Rodríguez and Jhon Fredy Bautista. Also the assistants Santiago Gómez Endes, Arles Mauricio Pascuas and Cristian Ricardo Cubillos.
So far, those responsible for the attack are unknown. Although in the department of Huila, which was severely beaten for decades by the former FARC guerrilla, there are dissidents from that group who did not accept or renounce the peace agreement signed in November 2016.
Murder of seven police officers challenges Petro’s “total peace” proposal
Petro, who assumed the presidency 25 days ago with the promise of achieving “total peace” in the country, where in addition to the FARC dissidents, other groups persist, such as the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and numerous criminal gangs dedicated mainly to drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion, immediately condemned the ambush.
“I strongly reject the attack with explosives that killed eight policemen in San Luis, Huila. Solidarity with their families », the president initially stated on his Twitter account.
In addition, the president pointed out: “These events express a clear sabotage of total peace.”
“Total peace goes against collusion and silence in the face of criminality. This action of terror is a sabotage to the purposes of overcoming this violence. That they serve the interests of a few, who live and have lived from war,” the Ministry of Defense and the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace stated in a joint statement.
Until now, this ambitious initiative had not been resisted by the illegal armed groups. They expressed in different ways their intention to seek an agreement with the government. Either through a peace negotiation in cases like that of the ELN -a political guerrilla-. Or also a submission to justice for those involved in common crimes, such as those of drug gangs or dissidents.
In the case of the ELN, the contacts advanced last month in Cuba where the negotiators of that guerrilla and the government agreed to resume the peace talks interrupted in 2018.
In the weeks prior to Petro’s inauguration, which took place on August 7, the Clan del Golfo, the country’s largest criminal gang, unleashed a wave of attacks against police officers, using the so-called “pistol plan.” This is in retaliation for the extradition to the United States last May of its leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel.”
That offensive, which cost the lives of 36 police officers, was interpreted by analysts as a show of force by the Clan del Golfo, also called the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC). This in order to arrive strengthened at an eventual negotiation with the Petro government. To which, by the way, the same day of his inauguration they announced “a unilateral cessation of offensive hostilities” to seek “paths of peace.”
That is why the bloody attack this Friday, which for now has not been attributed by any group, has been rejected by different authorities and international organizations. Well, this is a serious blow to the hope of peace opened in the first weeks of the government of Petro, the first left-wing president of the country.
“These types of actions do not contribute to the desire for peace that Colombians have,” said the Ombudsman’s Office in a message on social networks.
The special representative of the UN Secretary General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, who is very active in peace initiatives, also condemned the attack on the police patrol in Huila.
“I trust that the competent authorities will quickly investigate this fact. We must continue to insist on efforts around peace,” said the diplomat.
For his part, former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) said that “terrorists make fun of the generosity” of the government with attacks like today’s. And “they are disdainful of social offers”, for which he stated that “terrorism is only frightened by authority”.
principle of authority
The attack also occurred at a time of changes in the line of command and doctrine of the Police. Which has been criticized by the opposition to the new government, which they accuse of wanting to weaken that institution. Therefore, the reaction of the president of the Senate, Roy Barreras, a member of the Historical Pact, the left-wing coalition of which Petro is also a part, was significant.
“There is no respectable rule of law if all the legitimate force of the State is not exercised against these murderers,” Barreras said on his Twitter account.
The senator also asked the Ministry of Defense “to deploy the strongest police and military reaction to capture and punish them.” And he sentenced: “His impunity would be a humiliating failure for the rule of law.”
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