Paramilitary-style group invades Bogotá university, interrogates, intimidates students
The threatening presence of a group of armed, masked men who appeared suddenly on Bogotá´s Universidad Naciónal campus this week have left a number of questions and substantial fear behind.
The four men, dressed in full paramilitary attire, intimidated and threatened students. They demanded students inform on people who bought or sold drugs. They asked about weapons. And they asked about student membership in various organizations, according to reports by the press and a student representative.
Pictures of the paramilitary-style group which entered the campus on Wednesday were first published by the leftist-social advocacy group Marcha Patriótica.
Members of the group left the students with the message that they would be monitoring campus activities. That´s an ominous message in Colombia, where massacres of campesinos, human-rights workers, or anyone perceived of being left-of-centre are often preceded by public stigmatization and threats before they are murdered in what is often referred to as a “social cleansing”.
Student Representative Oscar Mauricio Aponte Moreno said in the Marcha Patriótica Facebook posting that the students´required protection and that there was no possible justification for a military presence on campus.
“Trafficking drugs on campus has no military solution and does not justify militarizing the university campus,” Aponte Moreno wrote on the Marcha Patriótica site.
Bogotá Ombudsman Germán Perea met with Universidad Naciónal Rector Ignacio Mantilla afterwards to discuss the worrisome invasion of campus life. They said police would be investigating.
Colombia´s Sistema de Alertas Tempranas, which assesses the threats of massacres and assassinations, would investigate the level of risk, Perea said afterwards
Bogotá Public Defender Jorge Arando Otálora spoke out against the action which he characterized as an attempt to produce an “ambiance of terror” on the campus.
The worrisome paramilitary presence on campus is a far cry from the decade of student activism in the 1970s when students´groups attempted to bar military and police.
Student ativists declared the campus at Universidad Naciónal was a “República Independiente” and said it was illegal for military to enter the campus.
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