Exiles in Miami show solidarity with Colombians they say face ‘hybrid warfare’

MIAMI – Exiles from Cuba and Venezuela showed solidarity with Colombian Americans during a meeting on Friday at the Brigade 2506 Bay of Pigs Museum in Miami.

Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, told the group that socialists and communists from Cuba and Venezuela are playing a role in the ongoing unrest in Colombia.

“It’s under attack in what is called hybrid warfare, a political front, a guerilla front in the mountains, and now this urban guerilla they have developed,” Gutiérrez Boronat said.

Amid the deadly street protests in Colombia’s major cities, the country’s foreign ministry announced the expulsion of a socialist Cuban diplomat. The Communist island has had an ongoing relationship with Colombia’s leftist guerrilla movements.

Police officers in riot gear work to clear the road on Friday in Gachancipa, Colombia. (AP Foto/Ivan Valencia) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Cuba played the role of a mediator during the 2016 deal that led to the disarmament of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Many of the fighters are now part of Colombia’s communist political party. Cuba also granted asylum to members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

Colombia, under conservative presidents, has remained a close ally of the U.S. Ernesto Ackerman, of Independent Venezuelan American Citizens, has warned that communists in Russia and China use Cuba and Venezuela to exert their influence in the hemisphere.

“It’s very important we defend one of the last places where we have Democracy at this moment,” Ackerman said during the meeting.

A police officer in riot gear shoots tear gas at a group of protesters on Monday in Cali, Colombia. (AP Foto/Andres Gonzalez) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The ongoing protests, which some experts view as a continuation of the unrest in 2019, started on April 28 after Colombian President Iván Duque announced a plan for tax reform. The proposal, which included tax hikes on staple foods and fuel, upset trade unions amid the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic.

Duque backed out, but the discontent during ongoing negotiations is still fueling the protests. Even Colombian indigenous people traveled from remote areas to Bogotá, Medellin, and Cali to join student protesters.

Members of Colombian indigenous groups march against tax reform on Wednesday in Cali, Colombia. (Foto AP/Andres Gonzalez) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Friday, the 9th day of the strike, Misak tribe members vandalized the statues of Spanish conquistadors — Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada in Bogotá and Sebastián de Belalcázar in Cali — who both died in Colombia in the 16th century.

“It’s just a generalized feeling of social discontent and people see this opportunity to go out into the streets and sort of vocalize that discontent,” said Cody Weddle, Local 10 News’ Colombia/Venezuela Correspondent.

Officers in riot gear detain a protester on Wednesday in Bogota, Colombia. (AP Foto/Fernando Vergara) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Officials reported at least 24 deaths are associated with the protests. Officers are investigating the disappearance of protesters and reports of police brutality.

Videos showing police officers’ use of force on social media include a police officer fatally shooting a protester who was running away after kicking him.

A protester who is armed with a bat confronts police officers in riot gear on Wednesday in Bogota, Colombia. (AP Foto/Fernando Vergara) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The United Nations’ human rights office on Tuesday reported most of the violence was in Colombia’s city of Cali. Many of the agreements that Colombia has with the U.S. require that the country comply with international law and not violate human rights.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.