On Thursday 26th June the small town of Facatativa, 10 miles outside Bogota, blocked the main road through the town in protest at local council plans to charge for public lighting. For around 12 hours locals defended barricades in Faca and the neighbouring village of Cargenita, also situated along Route 80, one of the main roads leading out of Bogota.
The police, including 300 from the riot squad, fired live ammo and massive amounts of tear gas, leaving 20 injured, including a 15-year old shot in the arm, who is being operated on in an attempt to prevent permanent nerve damage. A pensioner was reported by media to be in a serious state in hospital after riding his motorbike into a cordon set up by locals.
Faca rose up previously in 1996 and 1999 against the increasing cost of public services, with locals blocking roads and reclaiming public institutions. In 1996 the police murdered one local.
Roads were blocked at 4am with buses and lorries, with burning blockades set up during the morning at other points along the main road. As well as firing live ammo the police threw tear gas into the faces of blockaders, but were unable to break the determination of locals to maintain the blockades, supported by neighbouring villages.
The strike was only lifted once the council had canceled the planned street lighting fee and agreed to talks on improving other public services such as waste collection, telephones, electricity and water supply. As locals celebrated the news a police helicopter circled low overhead for around 10 minutes. 18 children arrested were released the same day but 4 adults were still being held the following day.
The police imposed a curfew and alcohol ban, and patrolled the streets. In the early evening the few locals on the streets were not stopped. Intelligence services prevented access to the hospital to the family of the youth seriously injured in the arm with live ammo.
Mainstream media reported looting and damage to cars and ambulances. Wandering around the streets after the strike was lifted the only property damage I witnessed was one smashed window on an ambulance.
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