If there was any complacency left among Colombians after two months in which the country’s democratic foundations have been shaken by anti-government protests, Friday’s assassination attempt against President Duque marked a defining moment in this country’s recent history.
Not since the 1989 killing of the presidential frontrunner Luis Carlos Galán by hitmen from the Medellín Cartel has a Colombian leader faced such a direct threat on his life and premeditated attack that also targeted Minister of Defense Diego Molano, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios, Governor of Norte de Santander Silvano Serrano.
Visibly shaken from the emergency landing in the city of Cúcuta where the flight was making its final approach from Sardinata, President Duque hosted a short press briefing in which he thanked the Air Force pilots for protecting the integrity of the passengers while condemning the attack as “cowardly.” The response from the international community was swift, beginning with messages of support from the diplomatic corps accredited in the country, as well as others received from global leaders.
On Monday, it was U.S President Joe Biden who picked up the phone to talk directly with his counterpart to reaffirm the strong bilateral relationship that exists between the two nations and commitment in defending democracy in the region. Duque thanked President Biden for a donation of 2.5 million Janssen vaccines that will reach 2.5 million Colombians. “Thank you for your support to the institutions of our country, shared values of protecting the right to peaceful protest and acting with law and order against acts of vandalism and urban terrorism,” emphasized Duque.
Condemnation from key allies of the attempted helicopter downing was also accompanied at home by an outpouring of solidarity from leaders across the political divide, except two of the strike’s promoters, Gustavo Petro and Gustavo Bolivar, who both insinuated on their social media feeds that the President had orchestrated the attack upon himself, revealing, yet again, the debased vitriol and hate speech that spews forth on both of these Senator’s social media feeds. Fueling their bases with insidious and convoluted commentary, to Bolivar’s funding of “front line” vandals who systematically have smashed Bogotá’s TransMilenio bus network, shows the extreme narratives and conspiracy theories that prey on radicalized youth, exacerbating class hatreds and justifying the violence that has besieged the Colombian capital since a 24-hour nationwide strike – Paro Nacional – was declared on April 28. Petro and Bolívar, however, called for “indefinite strike” action to sabotage the government’s necessary – yet untimely – tax reform bill.
In the maelstrom that began as a general strike, yet morphed into urban terror campaigns, on the same day the majority of Colombians witnessed the greatest security threat against their democratically-elected President, “front line” vandals placed a tripwire along one of Bogotá’s main avenues resulting in the decapitation of a 31-year civil engineer.
Images released from the Metropolitan Police show youngsters extending a metal cable across the two lanes of busy Avenida Las Americas before the motorcyclist was struck down. Mayor Claudia López called the incident a “homicide,” and one of few recent statements in which she has conceded that much of the extreme violence and vandalism in the capital has been peddled by strike supporters as “legitimate student protest.”
López has governed a city that during the last two months has been besieged by hordes of vandals, its many landmarks graffitied to the point that they have lost cultural and historic relevance. The weapons of choice of Bogotá’s “front line defenders” are potato bombs, Molotov cocktails and machetes; ghastly insignia of protest, that in the words of Mayor López stems from the left-wing coalition Colombia Humana. Same organization of Petro and Bolívar “who supply front lines with elements to confront the Police, a councilor (Heidy Sánchez Barreto) who lied about ambulances that ended up vandalized, councilors who provide logistical support in blockades, and summon youth to maintain the confrontation.” Tweet that after two months of unrest, however, seems bereft of political resolve or resolution, proving that President Duque remains the only leader who can end the internal crisis by signing the Constitutional decree State of Internal Commotion.