Friday, August 30, 2013

Who Are Los Encapuchados?

Encapuchados in violent action yesterday.
(Photo: El Tiempo)









The encapuchados, literally the 'hooded ones,' appear in many Colombian protests - and turn them violent. Many blame them for turning yesterday's protest in support of campesino farmers from a peaceful march down Ave. Septima into an orgy of violence which left two people dead, a policeman gravely wounded and hundreds injured, according to authorities. In addition, many central Bogotá business were sacked and vandalized.

A woman defends police from hooded attackers
 during yesterday's riots. (Photo: El Tiempo)
I've seen the encapuchados in action several times in the National University: both carrying out guerrilla-style rallies on La Plaza del Che, where they line up in ranks, toss smoke bombs and yell communist slogans, and also throwing rocks and 'papa bombas' (potato bombs) at riot police at the university's gates.

Encapuchados set off rockets in a field in the
National University in Bogotá.
Yesterday, encapuchados hurled chairs and other things they'd looted from stores at the riot police. El Tiempo published dramatic photos of a unarmed, unprotected woman trying to shield the police by standing with upraised arms between them and the rioters. But the masked young men pulled her away to continue pummeling the police. In another incident, on Plaza Bolivar, protesters actually surrounded the police to protect them from violent encapuchados. To the encapuchados, the police represent authority and the establishment. But they are also young men and women of humble origin, many of whom were drafted into the police force or because they had few alternatives. Attacking them is little different from attacking other humble people - exactly the sort of working class folks whom the protesters are supposed to be defending.

If, as many suspect, the encapuchados are acting at the behest of Colombia's guerrillas, then their hypocrisy is even clearer.

Encapuchados lined up on La Plaza del Che
in the National University.
If the encapuchados have any ideology besides anger and violence, it doesn't show. If they have any courage when they're not hidden by masks and armed with bombs and wooden planks, it's hard to recognize.

For a protest movement that's supposed to be non-violent, the encapuchados are a cancer, or a time bomb. They turn peaceful protests ugly, turn public sentiment against the demonstrators and give the government justification to militarize Bogotá and employ force against demonstrations - as Pres. Santos vowed to do last night.

It's no surprise that the mainstream of the protesters, who are legitimately concerned about the livelihood of Colombian farmers, have rejected the encapuchados' violence.


Encapuchados, not yet violent, marching down Ave. Septima in Bogotá during a protest. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

5 comments:

Jack D. Ripper said...

Then as soon as these assholes show up, they should be surrounded and contained by the citizen-peaceful protesters, then handed over to the police for questioning.

If they "protest", separate them from one another, strip them naked and run them off.

Miguel said...

unfortunately, few people have the courage of the woman who stood between the encapuchados and the police. and, as soon as they feel threatened, the encapuchados flee - which doesn't say much for their courage.

Mike

D Lee said...

The hijacking of a peaceful demonstration is the trademark of Anarchists. With the Internet and social media, wannabe Anarchists and kids who only want to cause mayhem have learned to hijack and create chaos and violence.

These types of demonstrations have happened throughout the world. In those cities that have had experience with these types of organized violent demonstrations, the police have learned that to be on the defense only makes them easy targets for hit-and-run attacks. Before any protest, the police troll the Internet message boards and send in officers to infiltrate the protesters to identify and shadow the leaders and troublemakers. When the protest starts, the police immediately arrest the leaders and anyone else who's causing trouble (cut the head off the snake). In the Bogota, it seems the police were like Mexican pinatas hanging from a tree and so tempting for anyone with a stick to beat it until it breaks. That's poor police leadership and planning. It's not as if the police did not have any prior experience or lacked prior knowledge that such violence would likely happen.

Miguel said...

The woman who defended the police turns out to be a 60-something resident of a poor hillside neighborhood who'd come downtown to fix a problem with her electricity bill.

Not, perhaps, the first person you'd expect heroics from.

The police have honored her.

Miguel said...

The woman who defended the police turns out to be a 60-something resident of a poor hillside neighborhood who'd come downtown to fix a problem with her electricity bill.

Not, perhaps, the first person you'd expect heroics from.

The police have honored her.