Colombian dies in horrendous acid attack, as nation remembers assassinated champion Gaitán
The nightmarish rampage of acid attacks continues.
As Colombia marks today the 66th anniversary of the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán – the presidential candidate who brought dreams of equality to the nation – there is news of yet another acid attack.
This time the victim was young man, who died shortly after having 90 per cent of his body soaked in acid.
No motivation has been given for the horrendous attack against the man, 22, who was attacked while on his way to his home in the department of Antioquia.
Alejandro Correa Castaño was walking with his girlfriend at the time of the attack. She suffered burns on her back and legs, but did not require hospitalization.
Police said they are attempting to identify the attacker.
The news of Correa Castaño´s horrific death comes as Colombian Justice Minister Alfonso Gómez Méndez announces maximum penalties for acid attacks are to be raised from eight to 16 years.
The outrage over five such attacks in the last two weeks has put pressure on the national government to increase penalties, restrict sales of such destructive chemicals and vigorously investigate and prosecute such cases. Many acid attacks are by former or spurned lovers who attack or pay someone else to attack the victim.
Many cases are never prosecuted and when they do result in convictions, the sentences are short, considering the public outrage such crimes generate.
The anniversary of the assassination of Gaitán features massive marches and demonstrations. The rebel Liberal politician seemed a certain bet to win the Colombian presidency when he was assassinated in 1948. With him died the hopes of a generation of Colombians who believed he could reform Colombian society to combat the extreme inequality and poverty.
His assassination provoked what is now know as the Bogotazo, the frenzy of violence that swept Bogotá and the eventually the entire nation. The cycle of violence and conflict caused by Gaitán´s assassination continues today in the conflict between FARC rebels and government forces. Many are hopeful that this will finally be the year that the government and guerrillas can negotiate a peace accord.
In recent years the anniversary of Gaitán´s assassination has also become a time to recognized the suffering of Colombian conflict victims, especially the poor.
Some six million Colombians are currently displaced by violence and hundreds of thousands have died in the conflict since Gaitán´s assassination.
The impunity enjoyed by the those who attack others with acid is similar to the impunity enjoyed by those who massacre trade union leaders, human rights defenders and peace activists in the minds of many Colombians.
Three Colombian women have been hospitalized, two in serious conditions after being doused by acid by attackers in recent weeks.
At least one woman, Natalia Ponce de León, was apparently attacked by a man who was obsessed with her, but rejected in his attempts to have a relationship.
Jonathan Vega was captured by police hiding in his grandmother´s house and charged in connection with the attack on Ponce de León. His lawyers have said he suffers from a mental illness, a claim that has been disputed by the victim´s lawyer.
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