Colombians saw their deaths live, on social media. “They are shooting people directly,” was heard on various broadcasts on September 9, 2020 in Bogotá, the first of two terrifying nights for the city. Fifteen months later, the United Nations has presented an independent report that assures that the police were responsible for a massacre that left 11 young people dead. What happened those days, the document maintains, is the most serious human rights violation in the history of the city.
The report has caused annoyance in the Government of Iván Duque. Vice President Martha Lucía Ramírez sent a letter to Juliette de Rivero, Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, complaining about her words during the launch of the report. “We invite her to present her recommendations to us through diplomatic channels, but not at an event where political activism was taking place, which is alien to her functions and the relationship of the State and the United Nations system,” said Ramírez.
The report, requested by the mayor of Bogotá Claudia López and carried out by Carlos Negret, a former ombudsman and current candidate for Congress, focused on the life stories of the victims and interviewed more than 400 people and witnesses to the events. Who were they? How were the last hours of the victims?
Freddy Mahecha and the Colombian paradox
The story of Freddy Mahecha, one of the victims, is the Colombian paradox. The 20-year-old boy comes from a family of policemen, his uncles and a grandfather have been members of the public force and he is the brother of Valentina, a patrol car who did not have a shift that night. Freddy had served in the Army and the Police and, according to the testimonies collected, he did not hate the Police. However, on the night of September 9, he was assassinated by an agent. The stories and videos collected by the investigation show that Freddy was shot twice and that three people carried him to take him to a hospital. Off-screen, the report says, a woman screams torn: “They shot him and said that because he was a vandal they were not going to save his life!”
For her family, the stigmatization and lack of assistance to her son has been devastating. “What we want to know is what happened, who gave the order to shoot there and who were the indolent people who denied help to my son seeing him injured,” said the boy’s father. For Valentina, who still works in the police, the duel has been even more painful. “In silence in his work and many times hearing from his colleagues things that he did not want to hear. And it is that a colleague of his could be the one who murdered his brother. A situation that puts her in an uncomfortable position, as she fears being singled out, discriminated against for being a relative of one of the victims of September 9, and that it will cost her not only her brother’s life but also her career, “the report states.
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The family now asks that the honor of the young man be restored and that the Police, who have served so many years, recognize that Freddy was not a vandal but a worker.
‘A policeman spat on my brother’s body’
“I lasted about half an hour hugging him. And the policemen said to me: ‘Stop yelling at that vandal, you must be the same, some ñeros’. Crying, I asked them for help. When he stopped answering me and got cold, I got really sick. A policeman passed by and spat it on me ”. It is the story of Lina Hernández, the sister who saw her brother Cristian Hernández injured on a Facebook live and ran to the place to help him.
The boy was a 26-year-old food delivery man. In the midst of the protests that night, Hernández had to take an order with his bicycle near the Immediate Attention Command (CAI) of the Verbenal neighborhood, which was being attacked with stones. El Verbenal was where more young people were injured that first night. Live-streamed videos showed officers leaving the police facility and starting to shoot. Also, the video where Cristian is seen shot in the head.
“The image that the Hernández family will never be able to forget was exposed to the inhabitants of this northern Bogotá neighborhood for at least two hours. The policemen did not pick him up, or help him, or take him to a hospital. They let him die, prevented them from helping him and bragged about what they had done in the face of the pain of their relatives, ”the report says.
Behind a door
Jáider Fonseca is the story behind a door that many Colombians saw during the Bogotá protests in 2020. The 17-year-old boy was hiding behind one when he was shot by the police. “I saw Jáider with the door that began to advance and then I got behind him. We were throwing a stone when I saw that they threw a fire extinguisher and the shots rang out, ”says Ferney Peralta, who was also injured and is one of the witnesses to Jáider’s death.
Hours before, Fonseca had told his girlfriend Maira Alejandra that he was going for a ride on his bike. Since that afternoon, the outrage over the murder of Javier Ordóñez, a lawyer who died after receiving gun shots taser when he begged the officers to stop, he had lit the fuse. In the El Verbenal neighborhood, of popular extraction, there were clashes between young people and the police. Through social networks, the girlfriend identified hours later his purple jacket behind the door that protected the protesters, the shots and saw him among the wounded.
Maira assures in the investigation that they also suffered the mockery of the Police in the hospital. “One of them stood up, walked pretending to be lame, pointed at us and made fun of us. I did not know that they had killed Jáider. He had just accepted what was happening, and well there everyone was talking about the police who shot him. I asked myself: ‘But why? What was he doing to get him killed? What was the mistake?’ “Says the girl who is now one of the leaders of the 9S victims.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.