As Colombia’s Petro scoffs Bukele, 79 police kidnapped in Caguán

Colombian police are taken hostage by a farming collective in San Vicente del Caguán.
Colombian police are taken hostage by a farming collective in San Vicente del Caguán.

Members of the Guayabero Indigenous Guard in San Vicente del Caguán have murdered a Colombian policeman and kidnapped 79 members of the force after a riot erupted on Thursday.

The violent events occurred on the grounds of the Chinese oil and petroleum exploration company Emerald Energy. Emerald Energy is a subsidiary of the Shanghai-based Sinochem International.

According to footage taken in the early hours, the National Police’s anti-riot squad ESMAD were protecting the installations of the multinational, near the rural township of Los Pozos, some 15 km East of San Vicente del Caguán. Los Pozos, in the southeast of the country, was one of the communities within a demilitarized zone agreed upon between the government of President Andrés Pastrana and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC – guerrilla to host the 1999 peace talks.

After the grounds of the company had been invaded by a group of farmers demanding the government build a road, violent protestors set fire to several buildings within the compound. The security situation worsened when the police found themselves surrounded by the Guardía Guayabero Campesina who proceeded to beat them, resulting in the death of police superintendent Ricardo Monroy. The Guardía stole military equipment before rounding up the police as hostages.

The sadistic attack in the Caguán, and subsequent kidnapping of Colombian security forces, recall to many in this country the most violent episodes of the internal conflict with FARC. President Petro has dispatched a commission of representatives from the Ministries of Defense and Interior “to detain the acts of violence.”

The outrage over the treatment of Colombia’s police at the hands of criminal groups comes hours after President Petro scoffed El Salvadorean President Nayib Bukele for building a mega-prison to confine dangerous criminal offenders, many belonging to the notorious Mara gangs.

Petro’s remark that while in Colombia he builds universities, in El Salvador, youngsters are “housed in Nazi concentration camps” was quickly responded to by Bukele, stating: “Results outweigh rhetoric. I hope that Colombia actually succeeds in lowering homicide rates, as we Salvadorans have achieved.”

The Colombian President’s latest row with a Latin American leader comes after the Peruvian Congress declared Petro a “persona non grata” for meddling in the internal affairs of the country and referencing the state’s security forces as “Nazis.”

As violence engulfs San Vicente del Caguán, and latest reports that the farmers’ collective has set fire to one of Emerald Energy’s oil platforms. As more than 70 police remain captive by the indigenous guard, President Petro’s “total peace” agenda has received a major setback, and one increasingly falling on the deaf ears of the country’s last remaining Marxist guerrilla, the National Liberation Army (ELN).