Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa held a press conference Wednesday morning to outline the security measures in place for the Colombian capital a day before the nationwide strike and civil protest known as Paro Nacional. Accompanied by Security Secretariat Jairo García, Bogotá Police Chief General Hoover Penilla; Commander of the XIII Brigade General Marcos Evangelista; Peñalosa began by emphasizing that the district will “guarantee, accompany and protect those participating in the marches, as well as the rights of citizens who do not support the strike and need to get to their places of work or study.”
According to the mayor, 17 marches are planned across the city, and given the large-scale protest, called on Bogotanos to be alert and attentive to security threats to the large majority of citizens who want to demonstrate in peace. Peñalosa urged those in the marches, as well as bystanders, to record with cellphones those who commit violent acts. “We hope everything transpires peacefully, within the framework of democracy,” said Peñalosa.
In terms of the public’s perception of heightened security presence on the streets just hours before the protest, Peñalosa stated that “Bogotá is not militarized, as the capital is home to many military installations, including the 13th Batallion, which protect government buildings, key infrastructure, and sites of strategic importance.”
Citing examples of terrorist acts committed during his administration, including the bombing of C.C Andino that killed three civilians on June 18, 2017; the car bombing inside the Police Academy General Santander that killed 21 cadets on January 17, 2019, as well as targeted attacks against police convoys and officers, Peñalosa remarked that “there are extremist elements in the city” with a track record of committing heinous crimes. “We are not in Switzerland,” remarked the mayor, adding that 4,000 police will accompany the marches throughout the day. The police will also coordinate all their operations at the Unified Command Post, with aerial monitoring carried out with 8 drones and 3 helicopters.
Responding to questions over the 27 raids conducted by the National Police on Tuesday, Police Chief Hoover Penilla stated that the officers were acting with judicial orders, and which resulted in the seizure of 1,500 elements used to fabricate improvised explosive devices, the most common of which is the – papa bomba – potato bomb. According to the authorities, the raids led to the capture of aliases “Chiqui” and “Diablo”, found in possession of explosive devices and grenades.