The Metropolitan Police is investigating an alleged politically motivated attack by police forces on a member of Colombia’s leftist Union Patriotica political party in the early hours of Monday morning.
Founded 30 years ago by Colombia’s Communist Party and the FARC, the country’s oldest rebel group, the Union Patriotica (UP) has been a historical target of state-sponsored political violence.
PROFILE: Union Patriotica (Patriotic Union)
Aida Avella, the UP’s first presidential candidate in 16 years, told Colombian press on Tuesday that a porter at party headquarters was attacked and tortured by policemen in Bogota, who called him a “communist” while beating him.
At the same press conference, UP House of Representatives candidate Jaime Caicedo claimed that the policemen — based in Bogota’s Teusaquillo a locality — entered the URI Puente Aranda City Hall illegally at 1:09 a.m. on Monday.
“The police entered the party’s headquarters […] without any legal authorization, breaking and entering, and forced the man […] to hand over a weapon that was for the security of the headquarters […] and then use it as a pretext for possession of illegal weapons,” Caicedo said.
Although the Metropolitan Police are legally required to oversee political headquarters, a patrol was not present that weekend, according to Avella, which is why the watchmen, Omar Javier Bustos, was carrying a firearm.
Once Bustos was in custody, he was taken to the Teusaquillo police station, where he was allegedly tortured.
“He was submitted to heavy torture and abuse, for which he is now incapacitated for eight days,” claimed Caicedo.
“They can’t intimidate a citizen, they can’t beat him up because he is a member of a political party,” said Avella.
Avella indicated that a meeting has already been scheduled with the Minister of Internal Affairs and that General Edgar Sanchez of the Metropolitan Police has promised that the case will be investigated. The presidential candidate hopes that the authorities will classify the matter as a “violation of Human Rights,” assuring that an international torture watchdog has been informed.
Avella also reminded the press that the UP has recovered the legal status it had previously lost, and is therefore entitled to the same political guarantees and participation as any other party in the electoral race.
As the UP still does not have its own political headquarters, it is currently operating from the Communist Party’s center in Teusaquillo.
The UP was founded in 1985 as a joint effort by the FARC and Colombian Communist Party during the peace talks that were being held at the time between the rebels and the government.
One year after being recognized as a political party in 1986, it became the target of a massive and bloody assassination campaign in which thousands of its members, including two presidential candidates, were systematically murdered by right-wing paramilitary groups, drug cartels, and members of the armed forces, often acting in direct cooperation with government authorities.
Following decades of recovery, 2014 will be the first time since 1998 that the UP has presented the country with a candidate for the Colombian presidency, as they only recently regained their legal status as a political party.
Political violence has been a prominent issue this week, following an announcement by Marcha Patriotica founder and ex-Senator Piedad Cordoba indicating that her leftist political party is contemplating dissolution, after watching 29 of its members be killed in 2013.
On Wednesday, the FARC denounced the lack of security afforded opposition political parties in Colombia, saying that continued political violence could undermine the ongoing peace talks between the rebels and the government, being held in Havana, Cuba.
In July of last year, the FARC had used the peace talks as a platform to demand investigations be held into the full extent of the state’s involvement in the so-called UP Massacre.
Piedad Cordoba met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last week, in part to discuss the ongoing threat being posed to opposition political parties. So far, however, the government has yet to announce any shift in policy or tactics.
- Policías torturan a Omar Javier Bustos, portero de la sede nacional del Partido Comunista (Rebelión)
- Policía Metropolitana investigará agresión a funcionario de la UP (Caracol Radio)
- Policías torturan a portero de la sede del Partido Comunista Colombiano (Colectivo de Abogados)
- Prensa Aida Avella Presidenta (Official YouTube Page)