Things That Matter

People Are Outraged That Colombian Police Shot And Killed A Teenager A Week Before His Graduation

If you haven’t already heard, thousands of people in Colombia have been embroiled in severe anti-government protests for almost a week. These protests began after rumors of reforms and pension cuts spread among unions, but they quickly escalated to include demonstrations from indigenous groups, students, and retired folks. While each of these groups has its own unique reasons for protesting, all of them are rallying against the extreme right-wing policies of President Ivan Duque.

Police involvement has grown more intense over the past few days, and on Saturday, an officer threw an unknown projectile as a means to disperse the crowd, resulting in the death of a Colombian teenager.

Credit: _dilan88_ / Instagram

Dilan Cruz, 18, attended high school in the capital of Bogotá and was due to graduate this week. He had plans to study business administration, but like the majority of his peers, he needed funding to do so. Cruz allegedly joined the protests to represent other students facing similar challenges accessing universities amid cuts to public education. Even prior to his death, his friends were showing up to the demonstrations, hoping to draw attention to the disparities affecting students all over the country.

After the initial trauma from the impact of the object (which some speculate was a stun grenade, a tear-gas canister or a rubber bullet), paramedics were able to resuscitate Cruz before rushing him to a hospital. There, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury caused by a “penetrating object.” On Monday, a vigil was held by fellow protesters outside of the medical center, and marches were led all over the country in Cruz’s honor.

“Dilan didn’t die. Dilan was killed,” shouted hundreds of demonstrators, days after the death of Dilan Cruz.

Credit: sebasmostro / Instagram

Cruz was the fourth person to be killed during the unrest – the other three deaths occurred in incidents that, according to the police, involved looting in the western city of Cali, as well as in Bogotá (two deaths were actually linked to the city of Buenaventura, and one to the town of Candelaria). When the protests started last week, they were mostly peaceful, though violence began to erupt in Cali, where a curfew was quickly imposed. As a means of preventing the protests from spiraling out of control, a ban on alcohol sales was imposed in Bogotá for 24 hours. Additionally, the borders between Colombia and Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela were closed, prohibiting entry into Colombia by land and water. They were reopened Friday morning.

Though relative chaos has persisted, violence has been widely avoided by the demonstrators. As such, riot police are facing criticism for forcefully attempting to disperse nonviolent crowds and causing deaths like that of Dilan Cruz.

Police Chief Óscar Atehortúa stated that the police officer involved in the incident had been suspended and would be investigated. The Attorney General’s office has also opened an investigation, and various officials – including Claudia López, mayor-elect of Bogotá, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, and President Ivan Duque – have offered their condolences to Dilan Cruz’s loved ones. President Ivan Duque addressed the late teen’s mother, grandfather and two sisters on Twitter, expressing his regret for Cruz’s death.

In response to the demonstrations, President Ivan Duque held a televised address on Thursday.

Credit: ivanduquemarquez / Instagram

He said: “Today, Colombians spoke. We hear them. Social dialogue has been a main principle of this government and we need to deepen it with all sectors of society and speed up the social agenda and the fight against corruption.” Of course, people were not satisfied with this statement, and Duque met with some protesters on Tuesday to engage in that much-needed “social dialogue.” Alas, the protesters asserted that their conditions have not been met, and as a result, the National Strike Committee said on Twitter that “[We] are going to strengthen and increase protests … the strike continues.”

The Committee announced another strike on Wednesday, but Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, says that it will be difficult for Duque to adequately respond to the protesters’ demands.

“His party doesn’t really support some of these ways of thinking. So in a way, he would be generating much more internal opposition if he were to implement some of these things,” Guzman told AlJazeera. He added that the main tenets of these demands – like the full implementation of the 2016 peace deal, a pension reform and the eradication of the riot police (ESMAD) – will likely be the most challenging demands to fulfill.

On top of protestors’ renewed vigor following the conversation with Duque, Dilan Cruz’s death has sparked even more fuel for the protests.

“People will be very upset [over Cruz’s death], and it probably give people more reasons to protest,” Guzman said. “Depending on the government’s response, things may even escalate.”

READ: Colombia Becomes The Latest Latin American Nation To Face Massive Protests And Here’s Why

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Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

Things That Matter

Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

The family of a man who was shot in the back and killed by a Mexican soldier is demanding better support from the Mexican military after officials offer them one million pesos, or about $49,000 USD.

Officials say that the Guatemalan man was in retreat from a military checkpoint near the southern border, when they admit that a soldier wrongfully shot at the man killing him.

Military officials are offering $1 million pesos to family of the Guatemalan man the army murdered.

The Mexican Army is offering 1 million pesos (about $49,000 USD) in compensation to the family of a Guatemalan man who was shot and killed by a Mexican soldier along a stretch of Mexico’s southern border.

The man, Elvin Mazariegos, 30, was killed by the army in the state of Chiapas by a soldier who opened fire on a car in which he was traveling with two other people.

According to Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the soldier shot at the vehicle as it tried to escape in reverse from a military checkpoint. He said the decision to shoot was an “erroneous reaction” because the military personnel hadn’t come under attack. The solider who shot Elvin Mazariegos was turned over to the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The family is asking for more support since Mazariegos was the family’s sole income earner.

Olga Mazariegos told the newspaper Reforma that the Mexican army had offered a single 1-million-peso payment to her brother’s family. But the family is also demanding monthly maintenance payments for Mazariego’s daughters, aged 9 and 5, and 2-year-old son, she said. She said their father was the sole income earner in his family.

“What we want is monthly maintenance, but they say that they’ll only give [a single payment of] approximately half a million quetzales,” Mazariegos said. At today’s exchange rate, 1 million pesos is in fact 377,300 quetzales.

The slain man’s sister said the army’s proposed payment will be insufficient for the man’s widow to maintain her family. “She’s left alone with her three children; what happened to my brother is not fair,” she said, adding that it was insulting for the army to say that his life was worth 1 million pesos.

Mazariegos murder comes as police brutality gains greater attention across Mexico.

Credit: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Residents near the border (including Guatemalans) have demanded justice. About 300 angry residents detained 15 other soldiers also deployed near the border. Nine soldiers were released about three hours after they were detained, while the others were set free in the early hours of Tuesday morning after Mexican officials reached a deal with the civilians to provide them with “economic reparation” for the killing. The army chief didn’t reveal how much money was paid to the angry residents.

The killing of Mazariegos came just two days after the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested by municipal police in Tulum, Quintana Roo.

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Police In Tulum Killed A Refugee By Kneeling On Her Neck And Mexicans Want Justice

Things That Matter

Police In Tulum Killed A Refugee By Kneeling On Her Neck And Mexicans Want Justice

So many of those attempting to reach the United States – or even Mexico in some cases – are already fleeing extreme violence, poverty, and fear. Refugees from Honduras and El Salvador (among other countries) are hoping to find a better life faraway from the corruption and danger that they face in their home countries.

But what happens when those same people fleeing violence in their home countries are met with state-sponsored violence on their journey to a better life? Unfortunately, at least one refugee, 36-year-old Victoria Esperanza Salazar, a mother of two teenage daughters, has lost her life while hoping for a better one.

Four police officers are in custody after the killing of a woman from El Salvador.

Four municipal police officers are in custody and under investigation for murder following the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested in Tulum.

Video footage shows a female officer with her knee on the back of 36-year-old Victoria Esperanza Salazar, a mother of two teenage daughters who was living in Tulum on a humanitarian visa.

In the footage, Victoria, who was apparently arrested for disturbing the peace, can be heard moaning in pain and is seen writhing on the road next to a police vehicle as she was held down for more than 20 seconds. Three male police are also present, one of whom appears to help the female offer restrain Victoria. Footage then shows officers drag her limp body into the back of a police truck.

Many are comparing Victoria’s murder to that of George Floyd.

Many in Mexico are comparing Victoria’s death to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer, who also died pinned under an officer’s knee. Video shared on social media shows a police officer leaning on Salazar’s head and neck and she cries out, and then goes limp. Officers then drag her body into the back of a police truck.

Mexican officials have largely condemned the officers’ actions and the Attorney General said that the officers — three men and one woman — will be charged with femicide. The charge of femicide carries a penalty of no less than 40 years in prison. The police actions violated the national law on the use of force, the Attorney General’s Office said. 

Victoria’s death comes as millions of Mexican women demand that the authorities do more to combat gender violence in Mexico, where an average of 11 women are killed every day. Her alleged murder also occurred as Mexican authorities ramp up enforcement against mainly Central American migrants traveling through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.

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