Juan Fernando Petro: A presidential vehicle assigned to Petro’s brother is shot in Bogotá

Juan Fernando Petro: A presidential vehicle assigned to Petro’s brother is shot in Bogotá
Juan Fernando Petro: A presidential vehicle assigned to Petro’s brother is shot in Bogotá

On Wednesday morning, a van belonging to the National Protection Unit and assigned to Juan Fernando Petro, the brother of the Colombian president, was attacked while traveling through the La Paz neighborhood. As it passed through Circunvalar Avenue, the dark gray Toyota TX was hit in one of its rear windows, but the bullet failed to penetrate the armored glass. The incident did not leave any injured, and the members of the presidential family were not in the van. However, it does raise concerns about the perpetrators and their possible motives, as it is a vehicle that is part of the Casa de Nariño protection scheme.

According to Juan Fernando Petro in an interview with the radio station Blu Radio, the van attacked is the main vehicle assigned to him, among those that are rotated. Although there is still no certainty about the authorship, he is inclined to think that it is an attack and not a fortuitous event. Since 2007, given the political relevance that his brother was gaining, Juan Fernando has received multiple threats. However, he assures that he has not been intimidated recently, so the attack takes him by surprise. What he had been noticing, he says, is an increase in hatred and polarization. And he relates it this way: “We were noticing that the tone was rising in the streets, in restaurants. You go into a shopping center, a bookstore and there is a certain tension that fell on me and yes we were noticing that, but from there to thinking that something was going to happen this morning, I don’t know.”

Juan Fernando also mentioned that there have been suspicions about the protection of several members of the presidential family. This Tuesday, EL PAÍS published an article that shows the tension between the Petro family’s bodyguards and the Police, after complaints by the latter about failures in the security scheme. Since September of last year, the Police has warned the Protection Unit that the president’s family, especially his daughter Sofía Petro, would be at risk due to irregular behavior by some of the bodyguards.

Captain Paula Andrea Russi, head of protection for Sofía Petro, said that some of the bodyguards’ behavior “represents a risk to the life and integrity of the daughter of the President of the Republic,” according to documents to which this newspaper had access and which are part of a process that is advancing in the Attorney General’s Office. The complaints refer to noncompliance with work schedules, the fact that on one occasion the armored vehicle assigned to Sofía was removed without just cause, and the free use of the vehicles to transport bodyguards belonging to other schemes. The UNP bodyguards have responded that their right to work is being violated and allege that the Police is overstepping its functions, since they are not subordinates, but are contracted through temporary companies.

Recently, people close to the presidential circle have also been shot at. On Sunday, June 16, the day on which Father’s Day is celebrated in Colombia, the father and nephew of Vice President Francia Márquez were victims of an attack while they were traveling in a vehicle on the highway that connects Suárez (Cauca) and Cali (Valle del Cauca). Márquez’s relatives escaped unharmed, and the Casa de Nariño pointed to armed groups operating in the southwest of the country as responsible, where there is a strong presence of the self-proclaimed Central General Staff, one of the largest dissident groups of the extinct FARC.

The National Protection Unit (UNP) is the entity in charge of providing security and escort services throughout the country to those who need the protection of the State, in what is considered the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders. As of August 2023, this organization had 8,067 protected persons, most of them leaders, representatives or members of ethnic groups, but also escorts politicians, public servants and even demobilized people in the process of reintegration who have been threatened.

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