Chairman Sires’ Statement on Events in Colombia
(Washington, D.C.) - In response to ongoing protests in Colombia and clashes with police that have led to at least 24 deaths and hundreds of civilian and police injuries, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy issued the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by the scenes of violence in Colombia and I urge the Colombian government to direct all security officials to prioritize the protection of human rights. Those who are protesting peacefully have a right to express their views; reports of excessive use of force and indiscriminate firing at crowds by police are unacceptable. I welcome the announcement that at least 23 internal investigations have been opened into these incidents and I urge the Colombian government to ensure justice for the victims and their families in every case in which security officials are found to have violated the law.
“As with many protests, it is without question that violent elements have taken advantage of the chaotic atmosphere and attempted to inflict harm upon police. While this is also unacceptable and reprehensible, ultimately it is the state that has responsibilities under international law to ensure the human rights of those who are protesting peacefully are protected. Under international law, the presence of a few violent provocateurs does not justify indiscriminate use of force against large groups of people.
“As a tireless advocate for Colombia and for strengthening U.S.-Colombia ties during my fifteen years in Congress, my heart aches for the Colombian people during this painful time. Colombia is battling another wave of the coronavirus pandemic and, like much of the world, has faced countless obstacles in attempting to obtain doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The scenes playing out on the streets of Cali should provide a call to action for U.S. policy makers and others in the international community. If we do not immediately defeat this pandemic once and for all, it is not only precious lives that will continue to be lost, but also the social fabric of entire societies that will be stretched to its very limits. People are exhausted and angry; their voices deserve to be heard.
“President Duque’s decision to revoke the sales tax increase demonstrates a willingness to listen to the demands of those on the streets in formulating a policy to address Colombia’s financial challenges. I urge his government and all those with legitimate social and economic grievances to immediately engage in dialogue about a way forward for Colombia that promotes equal rights, economic opportunity, and justice for all."