Protester Killed During Colombia Protests
Wednesday May 17, 2006
By SERGIO DE LEON
Associated Press Writer
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Farmers and members of indigenous tribes clashed on Tuesday with police during protests against a free-trade agreement with the U.S. and the re-election of President Alvaro Uribe, and protest leaders said an Indian farmer was killed.
Some 30 more were injured, five of them seriously, in the violence in the village of Piendamo, 210 miles southwest of the capital of Bogota.
Protesters complained of police brutality, while authorities accused leftist rebels of organizing the demonstrations to disrupt May 28 presidential elections.
``It’s serious here, the security forces keep hurting the people,’’ said Vicente Otero, a spokesman for a regional indigenous council.
Otero said Pedro Poscue, a farmer, was shot to death by police who fired from a helicopter to disband the protest, which he said involved 15,000 people. Authorities estimated the number of protesters at 6,000.
Cauca Gov. Jose Chaux, alleged that the protests were ``financed, organized and sponsored by terrorism,’’ referring to the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Protest organizers denied any link to the FARC rebels.
The free-trade talks with Washington have been hotly debated in this South American country. Uribe - who currently leads his closest opponent by 40 points in polls - has touted the economic benefits of increased trade with the world’s largest economy.
Farmers’ groups, however, say their members will be unable to compete with heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural exports.