BOGOTA: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the military to patrol the streets of Bogota yesterday after violent protests caused havoc across the capital, killing two and leaving the parts of the city in a shambles.
“Yesterday I ordered the militarisation of Bogota and I will do the same in any region or zone where the presence of soldiers is necessary,” said Santos, making ready as many as 50,000 soldiers.
He took the measure after almost two weeks of roadblocks and clashes with police that spread from the countryside to cities, including Medellin and Cali, on Thursday. Police fired tear gas in downtown Bogota and a curfew was imposed in three densely populated areas of the capital overnight to control outbreaks of violence and looting.
“There is no protest, as fair as it may be, that justifies loss of life,” Santos said in a stern early morning address after an overnight cabinet meeting at the presidential palace. “We won’t let these vandals get away with this.” “Patience has run out,” he added.
Police will review video footage to identify troublemakers and offer rewards for information that leads to their capture, Santos said. He blamed the violence on infiltration by leftist groups and hinted that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels were behind the dissent.
The demonstrations began as a strike by angry farmers, and then spread to other sectors. The city has not seen a large military presence for at least a decade.