The shooting of a police officer as he attempted to stop two assailants from robbing a bank in an affluent residential suburb, once again, has raised alarm among residents that crime is spiraling out of control in Bogotá.
The incident that claimed the life of 24-year old patroller Edwin Caro, and which led to a shoot-out along the Carrera 7 with Calle 79, occurred at the same time of another attack in Bogotá’s industrial zone Antonio Nariño. The attack involved two armed gunmen who attempted a car-jacking with three passengers inside the vehicle. The victims resisted the gunmen and managed to wrestle a firearm which they used to fatally shoot one of the assailants, and injuring the other. During the shoot-out in Bogotá’s north, one of the bank robbers was also killed by Caro’s police companion. The young patroller had only been a member of the force for a year.
The three deaths, all victims of the insecurity that is gripping the capital at a time in which coronavirus cases have declined, follows a recent request from Mayor Claudia López for the national government to boost the numbers of police in the capital. The request was made after a survey conducted by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce revealed that Bogotanos believe the security situation is at its worst level in 5 years. The 2020 edition of the Perception and Victimization Index last week confirms that 76% of Bogotanos feel unsafe in their localities, parks and open spaces, malls and mass transit system – TransMilenio.
Initial eye witness accounts at the scene of both crimes claim that Venezuelans are involved, reigniting the debate over xenophobia, unleashed after the death by stabbing of Oswaldo Muñoz, a 47-year old waiter, inside a TransMilenio bus station. On Thursday, Mayor Claudia López referred to the attacks during a visit to lay flowers where Caro was slain, stating: “Everything is offered to Venezuelans, the same guarantees as all Colombians have. First they murder, then they steal,” remarked López, recalling a similar statement on Twitter after the capture of Muñoz’s murders, in which she wrote: “I don’t want to stigmatize Venezuelans, but there are some who are seriously making our lives extremely difficult.”
The confirmation by the Metropolitan Police that the criminals who killed Caro are Venezuelan fueled anti-immigrant sentiment on social media in which posts referred the migrants as “the new FARC” and “Assasins.” The emotions expressed by many angry residents are in sharp contrast to the stance of the national government last month when the United Nations recognized Colombia’s historic humanitarian gesture in legalizing the status of up to 1.7 million migrants for a 10 year period. The tragic events that unfolded yesterday in Bogotá overshadowed the start of a mass vaccination campaign and in which health workers administered more than 19,000 vaccines to seniors above age 80. And after more than a week in which Bogotá registered coronavirus cases below a per-day average of 700, on Thursday, new cases climbed again to 1,059 in the capital.