Horrific acid attacks in Colombia rarely result in investigations or convictions
More than 1,000 cruel assaults with corrosive acids since 1997 have resulted in only four convictions, Colombia´s national prosecutor´s office revealed this week as the nation copes with a rash of recent attacks.
Even in a country where killers of left-wing politicians, trade union leaders and human rights defenders are rarely prosecuted or convicted, the level of impunity those who attack others with corrosive acid enjoy are shocking, in the extreme.
Assistant national prosecutor Jorge Perdomo revealed this week the dire situation this week as politicians debated how to deal with growing outrage after four women and one man were attacked by acid-throwing assailants.
Pressure is on the government to finally restrict the sale of sulphuric acid and similar corrosive substances and to increase the penalties the attackers face. Colombians are increasingly expressing outrage at the lack of efforts Colombian police and prosecutors make in investigating and prosecuting such crimes.
The latest victim Alejandro Correa died a few days ago after being attacked with acid while walking with his mother at 8:30 at night in the department of Antioquia, near the city of Medellín. First reports said he was attacked in a robbery while walking with his girlfriend. But recent reports say the attack against Correa was possibly motivated by a relationship he had with a woman.
Natalia Ponce de León remains in hospital after being attacked in a Bogotá park. The man now facing charges in the case was obsessed with her for more than a decade, family members said after she was horribly burned.
While calls for increasing prison sentences for those convicted of acid attacks were almost universal, Colombia´s right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez – the man who ousted former Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro for poor garbage collection – argued longer sentences are not the solution.
“That´s not the solution,” Ordóñez said in a meeting in Cali. Ordóñez said greater efforts must be made to investigate and prosecute such crimes. But he argued increased penalties were not the answer to reducing such terrifying, life-changing attacks.
He said such crimes were the “consequence of the dissolution of the family unit, lack of training on principles and values, the failure of education.”
Four women, including Ponce de León have been attacked in recent weeks. Such attacks in Colombia are often the result of personal relationships which go awry. The attacks are often executed by other persons, often common criminals, paid to throw the acid which can easily be purchased for about $5.
The government is under increased pressure to act, especially since it is in the middle of a presidential election campaign and that recent victims have been middle-class Colombians.
The almost complete freedom from prosecution and punishment enjoyed by the acid assailants raises the common problem of impunity in Colombia, a country where the killers of left-wing politicians, trade union leaders and human rights defenders are rarely prosecuted.
The obvious result of such neglect is that many more of these crimes are committed than if possible attackers knew they risked prosecution and punishment.
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