The expectation was placed on the vote of the Supreme Court of Justice to elect a new attorney general. In parallel, from eight in the morning union organizations carried out demonstrations in the main cities of the country. The objective was to demand that the magistrates of that court select this Thursday one of the lawyers selected by President Gustavo Petro – Amelia Pérez, Ángela María Buitrago or Luz Adriana Camargo – and prevent the Prosecutor’s Office from being temporarily left in the hands of Deputy Prosecutor Martha Mancera, right-hand man of the outgoing Francisco Barbosa, a declared opponent of the National Government. The outcome was not favorable to them. For about two weeks, at least, Mancera will relieve her boss, since none of the candidates obtained the 16 votes required to win the election.
The Colombian Federation of Educators (Fecode) initially called for a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, where the Court operates. Subsequently, he moved the place of summons a couple of kilometers to the west, to the main headquarters of the Prosecutor’s Office. Other unions joined. The indignation had a common origin: the judicial inspection that officials from the Prosecutor’s Office carried out at the Fecode facilities on January 22, following their investigation into the donation of 500 million pesos (125,000 dollars) that the organization made to the party. of President Gustavo Petro and that was possibly destined under the table for his campaign. The procedure was described as a “raid” by the president and was rejected by a large part of the left.
On Thursday morning, in front of the Prosecutor’s Office, from a platform, different spokespersons launched harangues against Barbosa and Mancera. Hundreds of workers responded angrily. A police helicopter flew over the scene and received shouts and insults. There were many flags of Palestine and the M-19 guerrilla group, which demobilized more than three decades ago and in which Petro was a member, as well as banners alluding to different left-wing parties and movements. A musical group of young people from the National Learning Service (SENA) accompanied the crowd with drums and other percussion instruments. The crowd grew as the hours passed.
Protest outside the Prosecutor’s Office, in Bogotá, this Thursday.CHELO CAMACHO
Francisco Maltés, leader of the Unitary Central of Workers (CUT), explained that the purpose was to “demand that the magistrates fulfill their role” and elect a new attorney general. “We have come to say goodbye to prosecutor Barbosa, who is going to end his administration plagued by corruption at all levels,” he told EL PAÍS. When asked if he considered that his demand of the members of the Court contradicted the request of President Petro, who said days ago that “progressivism does not attack justice,” he assured that citizens have the right to ask them for results soon, because They are “public employees, whose salaries are paid by the people.”
Political figures also participated. Heidy Sánchez, councilor for the Historical Pact, handed out posters of a stencil of the president’s face. “We are asking Ms. Mancera to step aside after all the scandals that have emerged in recent days,” he said in relation to journalistic investigations into an alleged cover-up of the former director of the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of Buenaventura. , linked to drug trafficking and arms trafficking networks. A few meters away was Carlos Carrillo, former councilor of the Democratic Pole, who criticized the delay of the magistrates. “The Supreme Court, by delaying, is going to reward Francisco Barbosa, who used the Prosecutor’s Office to favor a political sector, his sector, the Democratic Center.”
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Around eleven in the morning, the sit-in turned into a walk and headed to the city center. In the Plaza de Bolívar, in front of the symbolic Palace of Justice of Bogotá, another handful of protesters – considerably smaller than those on other occasions – were waiting for them. Edgar Flórez was surrounded by his “former comrades of the M-19.” He emphasized that everyone “were Gustavo’s colleagues.” [Petro]”. He carried a flag of the extinct guerrilla, which had among its most famous actions a bloody takeover of that same Palace – responded to with blood and fire by the Armed Forces – tied to his neck. There he found out the news. There was no election of the new prosecutor. “We are prepared for the crisis. “We knew this could spread.”
Shortly before noon, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Gerson Chaverra, announced before the microphones that the magistrates had voted twice, but that, as was foreseeable due to the history of slow, delayed elections, they had not achieved the majority of votes. 16 votes. It was then clear that Mancera would assume leadership of the Prosecutor’s Office this Monday, February 12, when the term of the person who has been his boss since 2020 ends.
Protesters gather to demand from the Supreme Court of Justice the prompt election of the new Attorney General of the Nation, outside the Court’s headquarters in Bogotá, on February 8, 2024.CHELO CAMACHO
After knowing the result, the protest did not dissipate around lunchtime in Bogotá, as usually happens. More protesters arrived, the choirs sounded louder and the tension, at times, increased. The plan of some was not to let the robed people leave the building. A man explained it like this into a megaphone. “Don’t be one of those who come, take a photo and leave. The magistrates are going to have to leave and it is our duty to wait for them, to make them feel that we are here.” Around two thirty in the afternoon, several media outlets announced that there was discomfort among the magistrates, feeling surrounded and limited in their mobility.
The north side of the building, where the magistrates’ armored trucks enter, was packed with indignant people. An iron fence separated police officers, who were ready for an eventual confrontation with shields and helmets, from dozens of protesters who were shouting against the magistrates. The sound of police helicopter blades reappeared. The pavement was filled with black paint, after a small group of hooded protesters wrote slogans. “Out with the prosecutor,” it read. Standing on the fence, people in scarves hit the metal with wooden sticks.
Hugo Mariño was staring at the building, irritated. He warned that the National Army reserve t-shirt he was wearing was “a gift,” and that he was part of the M-19. “After so many years, there is finally a chance to change this. How is it possible that the magistrates prefer to maintain the status quo as always? “That is not a Court, it is a cartel,” he asserted. Crossing the sidewalk, on one of the steel barriers that prevented the crowd from approaching the stairs of the Palace of Justice, a man tied himself up and announced that he was starting a hunger strike until a new prosecutor was elected. “I’m not going to drink anything or eat anything,” he pointed out.
Inside the building, nervousness increased. Several journalists made their concerns public through the WhatsApp group of the Court’s communications office. “Help,” wrote one of the communicators. By order of those in charge of the security of the premises, no one was to try to leave. The national director of the Police, William Salamanca, arrived to talk with the magistrates, and noted that he had no reports of violent acts. Hours later, with the concentration focused on the entrance to the parking lot, the journalists managed to evacuate.
Police evacuate the judges of the Supreme Court from the Palace of Justice, in Bogotá (Colombia), on February 8, 2024.CHELO CAMACHO
President Petro, faced with the tension, spoke out on his X account. “Here the only one attacking justice is the extreme right that fears a decent prosecutor. Therefore, I order the National Police to act on the people who impede the free mobility of magistrates and present a public report on who they are dealing with,” he said, pointing out the possibility that the blockade of the magistrates was carried out by infiltrators. Later, on the same platform, he urged people to allow the trucks to leave and warned that he had ordered “the doors to be cleared respectfully but forcefully.”
Minutes later, Judge Chaverra spoke for the second time. He read a statement from the Court that classified what happened as “a violent and illegal blockade.” His words carried a disapproval of those who promoted the demonstrations against the court. “Democracy is left in suspense when any sector or actor in a country attempts to put political, physical or moral pressure on judicial decisions.” The Constitutional Court, which also operates the Palace of Justice, supported it. “Judges at all levels require time, space and conditions suitable for adequate deliberation and decision of their own matters and assignments,” indicates the statement published on social networks and read in a video by its president, Diana Fajardo.
The police stun bombs sounded around five in the afternoon. The surrounding businesses, which were operating normally until then, quickly closed and housed some of the protesters. The others ran away, and the sit-in dissipated. The protest, which the president did not want to be perceived as pressure on the Court, ended up being just that. The consequences will be seen in the coming weeks. For now, it is clear that Martha Mancera will be Attorney General of the Nation from next February 12.
The police attack protesters who were blocking the entrance to the Palace of Justice, in Bogotá (Colombia), on February 8, 2024.CHELO CAMACHO
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