The United Nations has been “irresponsible and reckless” in condemning the death of four protesters during clashes with security forces in the northeast of Colombia, the country’s defense minister said Wednesday.
In a press release, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that “until the Prosecutor General’s Office finishes its investigation and establishes the circumstances in which these people people died, it is irresponsible and reckless to make any kind of claim pretending to validate some of the possible causes.”
According to the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, “the security forces have exercised an excessive use of force against demonstrators.”
However, the minister claimed that in the protests that have been ongoing for almost a month, 42 policemen were injured and “victim of the indiscriminate use of firearms, explosives, ‘tatucos’ [home-made mortar grenades] and other deadly weapons.”
The situation in Catatumbo escalated over the past few weeks when weeks after peaceful protests began, local farmers began blocking roads and riot police were sent to the area. In clashes that followed, four farmers were killed and at least 50 people — farmers and policemen alike — were injured.
The Catatumbo region, located at the Venezuelan border, is one of the most troubled regions in Colombia as it has become a major hub for drug trafficking to Venezuela and leftist rebel groups like the FARC and ELN exercise strong control in the remote area.
- Comunicado del Ministerio de Defensa Nacional (Colombia’s Defense Ministry)