24 police, two civilians injured; six critical
BOGOTA, Colombia––Preliminary investigation indicates that anti-bullfighting activists had nothing to do with a bombing on the morning of February 19, 2017 that rocked the Plaza de Toros La Santa María in El Barrio La Macarena.
El Barrio La Macarena is the Bogota neighborhood where the song Macarena––first recorded in Venezuela and also claimed by Mexico and Sevilla, Spain––reputedly originated in 1992, along with Macarena-style dancing.
Reported El Tiempo of Bogota, “An explosion was reported around 10:36 a.m. in the center of Bogota.”
Bombing appeared to target police
Initial estimates that 40 people were injured and a policeman killed were rapidly downgraded to 26 injured, 24 of them police officers and two of them female bystanders, with none killed. Six people were reportedly in critical condition after suffering eye injuries from flying glass.
There was a heavy police presence around the Santa Maria bullring in anticipation that protesters might disrupt the bullfighting season finale, scheduled for several hours later.
Bogota police commander Hoover Penilla said that investigators “already have evidence about the person who installed the device that caused the explosion,” El Tiempo reported, “and was emphatic that it ‘had nothing to do with animal rights advocates or anti-bullfighting activists,'” after about a dozen activists were briefly detained and questioned.
Suspect “taking advantage of causes”
“This person is taking advantage of these causes, but it is not related to them,” Penilla said.
Colombian national police director General Jorge Nieto told a press conference that “At this moment no hypothesis can be ruled out,” but acknowledged that investigators were looking into whether the apparent bombing was linked to two others that hit the Bogota financial district in July 2015, injuring eight people.
“The explosive device, which shattered windows in nearby apartment buildings, appeared to have been left in a sewer outside a new youth hostel,” called El Pit, “popular with foreign backpackers,” reported Camilo Hernandez and Joshua Goodman of Associated Press.
“National Liberation Army”?
“We were all inside having breakfast when we heard the blast. Everyone was in shock, but luckily nobody inside was hurt,” said El Pit co-owner Juan David Gonzalez.
“Some local media speculated the bomb might have been placed by members of the National Liberation Army, the country’s second-largest rebel movement, which in recent weeks has carried out small attacks on police targets,” continued Hernandez and Goodman.
Former Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro banned arena bullfighting in 2012, after the Taurine Corporation, hosting bullfights at the city-owned Santa Maria stadium, refused to switch to a format in which the bulls would not be killed.
Constitutional court reversed ban
“The constitutional court later overturned the ban, ruling that it was part of Colombia’s cultural heritage and couldn’t be blocked,” explained Goodman on January 22, 2017, soon after bullfighting resumed at Plaza de Toros La Santa María after a four-year hiatus.
On that occasion, Goodman reported, “Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police and harassed spectators. Police had to fire tear gas to control the protesters, many of whom shouted ‘murderers’ and ‘torturers’ while spitting and sometimes coming to blows with spectators nervously making their way to Bogota’s 1930s-era brick bullring. There were several arrests as tensions ran high in what at times seemed a reflection of deep social divisions between wealthy, well-dressed spectators who had expected a booze-filled, fun afternoon and a crowd of mostly young, angry protesters screaming obscenities at all who passed before them.”
“All but ruled out that bullfight protesters were to blame”
Current Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa told Goodman that “while he sides with animal rights activists who consider the bulls’ slow, agonizing death in front of an audience a barbaric throwback, he has no choice but to enforce the high court’s ruling. He said he supports legislation working its way through the Colombian congress to prevent state resources from financing bullfights and leaving it up to each district to decide whether they can take place.”
Concluded Hernandez and Goodman, “Despite the tense environment in recent weeks, Penalosa all but ruled out that the bullfight protesters were to blame” for the Macarena district bombing. ‘It’s not part of our hypothesis,’ he said, after an emergency meeting with his top security aides.”
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