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How the Death of Teenager Dilan Cruz Affected Colombia’s Protests

Following the confrontation with Colombia’s National anti-riot police force, Esmad, 18-year old Dilan Cruz was struck in the head by a police projectile November 23. He succumbed to his injuries on Monday, only hours ensuing his sister’s, Denis Cruz, statements regarding the incident, “We want what happened with Dilan not to be used for more riots, to create more violence.” Following the announcement of his death, his name was tweeted more than 350,000 times in 24 hours, many of the tweets expressing anger at the police force’s poor handling and treatment of protestors.

Within the past week, hundreds of thousands of Colombian protestors have flooded the streets. What were initially protests regarding labor unions, has ballooned to greater issues, particularly regarding discontent with Colombia’s president Iván Duque, who’s policies are far-right. The demonstrators requests range from more funds for public education, higher wages and more job stability to subsidised pensions, a better healthcare system and the implementation of the peace accords. Students and teachers insistent on better educational opportunities, alongside citizens that have taken heed to the increased violence against activists and social leaders, have been major factors behind these protests.

In response to Cruz’s passing, protests have progressed, calling his death an act of police brutality. To handle the growing anger amongst the crowds, Duque called for a meeting intended to find out the details behind his death. As a result, demonstrators have called for greater accountability from the President. Issued in a statement on Twitter, the National Strike Committee said: “We are going to strengthen and increase protests …the strike continues.” The committee called for another strike on Wednesday.  The greatest disconnect between Duque and his citizens has been his legitimacy. Despite his alleged attempts at a dialogue for national discussion, he has continuously failed to respond to the needs and wants of his people.

Cruz, the fourth victim of Colombia’s anti-government protests (and the 21st fatal victim of Esmad) was due to graduate Monday, November 25. His death, amongst others, has caused civil unrest between the government and its citizens. Through such a tragedy, he’s become a symbol for Paro Nacional protestors, representing “a generation that was robbed of its rights but that will not be robbed of dignity.” The member of Esmad responsible for firing at the student has been suspended and is facing disciplinary action. The country’s top law enforcement entity, Fiscalía General de la Nación, has opened up an investigation into the shooting. President Duque has publicly issued his condolences for Cruz and his family.

Featured Image via El Espectador.

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