WATCH: 79 police held hostage in Colombia as oil protests take violent turn
A police officer and civilian were killed during violent protests in Colombia’s Caquetá province Thursday, and 79 officers and nine oilfield workers were taken hostage by rural communities. (CREDIT: Reuters)
Protests in Colombia have taken a violent turn after residents took 79 police officers hostage and two people died in the clash.
The residents of Colombia’s southern Caquetá province blockaded the compound of oil company Emerald Energy, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned company Sinochem. They also took nine oilfield workers as hostages along with dozens of police officers.
The protesters have demanded help to repair and build new roads in the area. A police officer, Ricardo Monroy, and a civilian died during the blockade. President Gustavo Petro decried the killings in a statement on Twitter.
“We have a popular movement which by its exclusion and the influence of groups which want to destroy this government and subsume Colombia in war, has ended up murdering a young policeman,” Petro said.
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Police sit while officials from Colombia’s human rights ombudsman speak with demonstrators who, according to authorities, belong to rural and Indigenous communities and are demanding that oil company Emerald Energy build roads in San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia, March 2, 2023. (Colombian Ombudsman Office/Handout via Reuters)
“I expect from the perpetrators the unilateral liberation of government officials before a new escalation of violence is caused,” he added, saying the attorney general’s office should investigate the killings.
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The violence erupted in part of the San Vicente del Caguan municipality, where members of rural and Indigenous communities blocked access to the oil field and set a fire. Both victims died from gunshot wounds, according to police sources.
Police sit near officials from Colombia’s human rights ombudsman while they speak with demonstrators in San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia, March 2, 2023. (Colombian Ombudsman Office/Handout via Reuters)
Colombian officers paid tribute to Monroy on Twitter, writing that he “offered his life in the line of duty.”
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Colombia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Carlos Carmargo has remained on site to mediate with the protestors, saying that he stopped them from throwing more Molotov cocktails at the oil facility.
A view of the facilities of the Emerald Energy oil company in Los Pozos, department of Caqueta, Colombia, Nov. 3, 2014. (Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images)
Protests in areas close to oil and mining projects regularly occur in Colombia as communities push for companies to build infrastructure, including roads and schools.
Authorities in the country have raised concerns that a dissident group of FARC rebels, who rejected a 2016 peace deal, may be active in the region and provoking the unrest. The U.S. in 2021 delisted FARC as a foreign terrorist organization, arguing the group “no longer exists as a unified organization that engages in terrorism.”
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Petro also separately demanded an investigation into his own son and brother for alleged corruption, but he did not specify the accusation, only saying, “My government will not give out benefits to criminals in exchange for bribes,” the BBC reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.