By Juan P.
Edited by Brendan S.
It all started early Wednesday morning September 9, when the lawyer Javier Ordóñez -44, two sons-, was in a Bogota street talking to a couple of friends. Colombian police officers, that often perform illegal tracking towards citizens, arrived to where Ordóñez was and subdued him in a matter of seconds using punches, kicks and a taser gun.
Three minutes of hell later, Ordóñez had already choked and begged the two police officers for some air to breathe. These officers, however, only gave him more electric shocks and took him, still alive, to a nearby police station as people were watching the scene in awe.
All of this was recorded by one of Ordóñez´s friends, who had a phone but didn’t dare get close to the police officers, who were clearly showing signs of cruelty and torture -yes, in the middle of the street in the capital of Colombia- as Ordóñez was completely motionless and saying time and time again “Por favor, por favor por favor” (“Please, please, please”).
They didn´t stop. They killed him eventually.
This journal had access to the Medicina Legal´s forensic report of the death of Javier, and it showed acts perpetrated by the police officers that went way beyond the limits of human rights violations. 9 skull fractures and a blunt blow to the head. Those hits killed him.
According to a forensic expert consulted for this article, 9 skull fractures require a strength of at least 5000 newtons. This means the force of a rock of 450 kilograms, as in they would have had to drop a rock of this size nine times in order to break Ordoñez´s skull like this.
“This is an act of cruelty, of torture, of inhuman violence”, concluded the forensic expert.
Hours later, different international entities such as the International Criminal Court, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and even the European Union released statements rejecting what was happening in Colombia. But Ivan Duque, the controversial Colombian president (who is in fact the same age as Ordóñez), didn´t condemn the act committed by the police, and instead ordered further police brutality toward the dozens of protests which erupted in Colombia as the news of Ordóñez´s death reached the ears of the people.
It was corroborated from the audio of a police officer that recorded the murder, that there were seven police officers involved with the death of Javier. While he agonizes, another officer speaks and his voice sounds like the demons on earth: “Que se muera, pero no aquí. Que se muera. Pero no aquí”. (“Let him die, but not here. Let him die. Not here”).
This recording is in the possession of the Colombian Fiscalia, the entity in charge of investigating the murder.
So it all started early Wednesday morning, when Javier Ordóñez was murdered by Colombian police officers. Following this there would be a night that would come to last 45 hours.
I don´t think it is over yet, because another 13 deaths followed Javier´s. All were homicides, all committed by police officers.
Colombian Lives Matter
Colombian protests, usually apathetic, made ignition with this news. Students, teachers and workers took to the streets and never left them until they had left a clear message or, at least, burned something.
There was violence among the protests, but aside from throwing rocks and fireworks, the most extreme protesters didn´t do anything beyond destroying property of the elite and blocking streets. The police responded with tear gas, wooden sticks that they found on the floor, and bullets. Yes, bullets, as a response to rocks.
The trending posts on Colombian social media had the hashtag #ColombianLivesMatter all over, as people were remembering the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis who, it is sad to say, had a similar death to that of Javier Ordóñez.
Pressure mounted on the government as prominent artists, musicians and poets were insisting on a de-escalation of the conflict. However, there was always at least someone deep within the offices of the Casa de Nariño (personal house of the president) or in the Ministerio de Defensa authorizing the use of lethal force.
Mayor Claudia López, first Colombian member of the LGBTQI+ community to reach this office, demanded that the Bogotá Police units stop the use of lethal force immediately. The police refused to comply.
We all know that military and law enforcement function by hierarchal orders. So, if the mayor of the capital has no say in the procedures of her metropolitan police force, it means the orders are coming from the top.
Fire During the Protests
Demonstrations in Colombia are often accompanied by music, flowers, candles and other peaceful tools. This time, on the contrary, we are seeing that an element as destructive as fire can be used as the guiding light of a movement, employed for the words and demands of humanity to be seen loud and clear.
We saw in Bogotá, Cartagena, Manizales, Medellín, and other cities, hundreds and sometimes thousands of civilians wearing gas masks, not as a measure against Covid-19 but as a facial shield against rocks, fireworks, tear gas, and even bullets.
Along with gas masks, the Colombian protesters also wore helmets, face protectors, bulletproof vests and wielded shields.
All the protests, in between inaccurate messages of the violence ceasing, were violent. The hooded and masked demonstrators eager to fight and claim vengeance for the dead civilians, the police officers eager to abuse their power and get a promotion while doing so.
The fires, already raging on the streets, were giving a little warmth to a city, a country, that was already lit but felt dead cold. In the nightmare´s night, as far as we know, at least 15 people (one as young as sixteen) lost their lives at the hands of police officers.
People on public transportation going past demonstrations decided to abandon their routes and join the protests. Few sights so clearly emulate the fury of the Colombian people right now. The Colombian masses, abandoning their personal obligations, to mutually harness the fire against oppression.
Because there are already 300 wounded people and counting, meanwhile in a world pandemic we are forced to fill the hospitals with people injured by the police.
Because there are now reports that at least three women were raped by cops on that night.
Because the Defense Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, didn´t ask for forgiveness in spite of being the commanding officer of all the police forces in Colombia.
Because Holmes Trujillo, appointed in office just a few months ago (and a dinosaur in Colombian politics), said that he was going to send three times the men that attended the protests on the nightmare´s night.
It seems that the Colombian Defense Minister doesn´t understand the concept of de-escalation, therefore he fails to understand that if he uses repression times three, the protests will grow by six.
Dozens of NGO´s and legal groups are already asking the Congress for the resignation of Holmes Trujillo.
The fires in the streets have been used as an excuse to employ some of the Colombian state’s newest toys, including the modern tear gas that police are using.
White gas, green gas and pink gas threaded in the air. A surreal scene that, in the distance, seemed more like a parade than a citizen massacre.
We must also mention something else which contributes to the Colombian discontent: massacres.
At least 52 massacres have occurred in the country this year (yes, the Covid year when everyone is supposed to be home). Well, killers in Colombia tend to know the addresses of their victims, sometimes helped by, guess who, army and police officers.
Sometimes news about Colombia reaches the top pages of international media like the New York Times, DW, CNN and France 24. Sometimes that same news doesn´t reach a single headline in the Colombian outlets. This often happens, as in the case of RCN news, because they are deeply rooted in state sponsorships. In other cases, it is because independent journalists are hunted and killed, or just don´t have an audience as big as the mainstream media companies.
Another important concept is the manner in which Colombian media uses language. Caracol news, the most watched news outlet on Colombian television, said “police officers KILLED George Floyd” the day it happened. After the death of Javier Ordóñez, their headline was “Man TURNS DEAD after police procedure”.
We don't have to be experts in Spanish, semiotics and hermeneutics to see that the language used in state-sponsored Colombian media, as is the case with most state-sponsored media across the world, dehumanizes the victims while diminishing the responsibilities of the perpetrators.
So, the fires are still burning in Colombian cities.
Not the bullets, not the insults, not the rains present during the demonstrations, were able to put out the fires that the Colombian people lit, much less those which continue to burn inside their chests everyday.
Colombia seems to have declared war against Colombia.
Let´s hope my country doesn´t become a tinderbox.