Colombia’s Petro promises pardon for First Line protestors

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Colombian President Gustavo Petro formalized a request before the country’s Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, to suspend the arrest warrants against protestors who are detained for acts of violence and vandalism during last year’s National Strike.

Petro made the announcement during a trip to Pasto, the southwestern capital of Nariño, that he will grant an official pardon to those “who exercised their legitimate right to protest” and were arrested for participating in anti-government demonstrations. “They have a right to spend Christmas with their families,” he said.

The majority of protestors who were arrested are members of the so-called First Line – Primera Linea – movement, but Colombia’s Interior Minister, Alfonsa Prada, stated Monday, that the presidential pardon could be extended to farmers and social leaders who participated in the protests. Prada appeared to tone down Petro’s affirmations, stating: “It is not an amnesty, there is no pardon,” and adding that the final decision to release many of the youngsters incarcerated will depend on judges. Petro promised during his speech at a communal assembly that “hundreds of young persons who were involved in civil disobedience will be released before New Year’s Eve.”

President Petro compared what happened with the youngsters of the First Line with what happened during the dictatorship in Chile, when dozens of students were arbitrarily rounded up by security forces and executed. “In a stadium just like this one, cold and dark, they killed Víctor Jara and dozens of young people”. He then went on to claim that the previous administration of President Iván Duque could be compared to other “governments that order the killing and torture of young people,” but that his government represents one of “change.”