By day, they’re publicists, YouTubers, or market vendors. At night, they dodge tear gas and stun grenades to treat the wounded in clashes between police and young people, spearheading an unprecedented social upheaval in Colombia.
Some have medical training, others learn on the job.
“I have basic first aid knowledge… and I feel the need to apply it in a situation like we are in Colombia,” said a 32-year-old publicist helping in a makeshift clinic on a basketball. court south of Bogota.
“A friend of mine was sexually assaulted by the police here,” said another rescuer, 23, who joins the night squad after finishing his job in a marketplace.
“We are doing what the police should do: save lives,” added another.
Managed only by volunteers – a dozen people aged 18 to 34 – and lit by neighboring neighbors’ homes, the clinic was erected near a blockade at the Portal de las Americas terminal station.
For weeks, demonstrators have been blocking the transport hub to protest what they called the illegal detention of a dozen of them.
The station became known as the ‘Portal of Resistance’, a symbol of the five-week mobilization against President Ivan Duque’s government as poverty, unemployment, inequality and the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic took hold. triggered widespread anger and resentment.
– Stretcher as a shield –
In five weeks of unrest, 59 people have died across Colombia according to official data, with more than 2,300 civilians and uniformed personnel injured.
All but two of the dead are civilians, and the armed forces’ crackdown on the protest movement has drawn international condemnation.
“We used the stretcher as a shield,” said a 24-year-old nurse, who also volunteered to treat the dead at the Portal de las Americas barricade, recounting one of the many mind-blowing experiences.
“I saw on the news the daily number of injured and I felt useless at home … One day, I decided to take my medical kit and go help,” said another 34-year-old nurse.
# photo1 Caregivers, professionals and amateurs alike, are reluctant to give their names, fearing for their safety.
On May 24, Armando Alvarez, a doctor who treated injured protesters in the town of Cali, was shot dead as he left his workplace.
On the evening of May 26, at the barricade of the “Resistance Portal”, rescuers flocked to and from the front line where protesters armed with stones and wooden and tin shields clashed with riot police. heavily armed.
– ‘Have I lost my eye?’ –
One by one, they fell, suffocated by tear gas or injured by projectiles fired by the police.
The most serious injuries were to the face and eyes.
At around 9:30 p.m., a man was transported 200 meters from the front line to the makeshift clinic by his friends. He is the first patient of the night, his ankle hurts after being hit by a gas canister which he says was fired from a nearby building.
Another followed soon after with a shoulder injury caused by an unidentified projectile fired by the police.
# photo2 Some days are more difficult than others, the 34-year-old nurse told AFP.
“There are things that shock you, like when a young person asks you, ‘Tell me the truth. Have I lost my eye? ‘ “
Even though their own lives were disrupted by the clashes and barricades, neighbors continued to support rescuers with medical supplies and food.
© 2021 AFP