U.S student in custody for participating in violent Bogotá protest

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Facebook/CITYTV

A political science student from Golden, Colorado, and who studies at the private Los Andes University in Bogotá, remains in custody at a local detention centre – URI – after members of the anti-riot police ESMAD arrested Maria Elizabeth Giulianelli on Thursday afternoon for allegedly participating in a violent confrontation between masked protestors and security forces at the gates of the National University.

A march of an estimated 1,300 anti-government protestors reached the public Universidad Nacional in the early afternoon to mark the first-year of the National Strike – Paro Nacional – and proceeded to blocked the Avenida El Dorado (Calle 26) for several hours. After vandals smashed the glass doors and graffitied the nearest TransMilenio station Ciudad Universitaria, the National Police’s ESMAD moved in to clear the area.

In a video taken at the scene by CITY TV, the student identified by authorities as Maria Elizabeth Giulianelli, age 20, is seen having her red face covering removed by the members of the anti-riot squad, and one of three women (the other two are Colombian), charged with vandalism and attacking the police. The video also shows rioters hurling bricks and potato bombs towards ESMAD as security forces attempt to quell the disturbance with water cannons.

Colombia’s Police Chief, General Jorge Luis Vargas, confirmed during a press conference, accompanied by Minister of Defense Diego Molano, that the U.S national was detained and remains in custody. General Vargas confirmed that the National Police has requested Interpol do a background check at an international level on Giulianelli. Giulianelli’s Instagram account shows she visited Cuba in 2020.

According to the country’s national daily, EL TIEMPO, Colombia’s Immigration entity, Migración Colombia, is aware that Maria Elizabeth Giulianelli is in the custody and are waiting to review the case. Giulianelli could face deportation from Colombia and barred from entering the country for 10-years for “alteration of public order, affecting urban infrastructure and attacking public officials.”

CITY TV’s footage shows Giulianelli shouting her name and stating “I am a political science student at Los Andes,” as she is escorted away from the scene of the confrontation. Giulianelli’s Facebook page reveals in a public post that she moved in 2018 to San Isidrio General, in San José, Costa Rica.

The arrest of Giulianelli recalls a similar incident on July 18, 2021, during the height of the riots and protests of the Paro Nacional, when police detained a 34-year-old German woman – Rebecca Sproesser – for actively participating in a Primera Linea (First Line) during the civil unrest that besieged the southwestern city Cali.

Sproesser paraded her political activism on social media by posting pictures of herself in anti-riot ski goggles, neckerchief and construction hat – attire used by First Line defenders. Colombia’s Foreign Ministry barred entry of the foreign national for 10 years based on her direct involvement with an organization responsible for wide-spread vandalism and attacks against the police.

German activist Rebecca Sproesser during Cali riots of Paro Nacional / Instagram