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Calls for Colombian riot police to be disbanded after protester loses eye in clashes

CALLS are growing for Colombia’s special riot squad to be disbanded after a 24-year-old man lost his left eye during a protest against police violence in the capital Bogota earlier this week.

Gareth Steven was injured when the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (Esmad) went on the rampage, attacking a peaceful demonstration and seriously injuring at least four people.

Among them were three officials from the Bogota mayoral office, one of whom was hit in the leg with a stone during the protest marking the National Day Against Police Abuse on Wednesday.

Mr Steven was rushed to a nearby hospital after being hit on the cheek by an officer, but medics were unable to save his eye.

Andres Idarraga, human rights director at the Colombian Interior Ministry, said that the government was investigating the incident.

“We are making all enquiries to identify who injured Steven and under what circumstances,” he said.

But Bogota Councillor Diego Cansino said: ”The Esmad must be dissolved. It is inconceivable that the national police shoot and assault young people just because they take to the streets to demand their rights.”

The demonstration was called by student and youth organisations demanding an end to state terrorism and impunity.

It was held in memory of school student Dilan Cruz, who was killed by police during a protest in November 2019.


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