In an improvised visit, Duque tried to boost morale by expressing his support and gratitude “in the name of all Colombians.”
“I’m an admirer of the police,” the president told the officers, according to the presidential website.
Unlike the police forces of other cities, Bogota’s Metropolitan Police Department has come under fierce criticism over its unsuccessful attempts to violently repress the protests that began on November 21.
Today more than ever, all Colombians have a feeling of gratitude to our policemen. Their authority is a source of pride and tranquility for society.
President Ivan Duque
The president explicitly expressed his support for controversial anti-riot police unit ESMAD, which killed one high-school student and which organizers of the national strike want dismantled.
“He invited them to — every time they wake up, despite the difficulties — to think there is a country and a citizenship that supports them,” according to the presidential website.
Like other police forces, the Bogota Police Department has been dealing with almost constant anti-government protests for 11 days.
But unlike the security forces in cities where police have facilitated peaceful protests, Bogota’s police have found themselves violently repressing the protests of the people they vowed to serve and protect.
Duque’s surprise visit indicates that the protests and the subsequent controversies in Bogota have affected morale, and that the police needed a boost ahead of a new national strike day that is set for Monday.
In Medellin, protesters have expressed their appreciation for their police force that, with the exception of the ESMAD, has maintained order in cooperation with the protesters.
The strikes and protests have severely damaged the authority of the president, whose approval rating has plummeted and who is now facing opposition from within his party and minority coalition.