Public uproar about Bogota cops’ decision to fine a man for buying empanadas from a street vendor has escalated in Colombia, both in Congress and on the street.
The country’s chief of police, General Oscar Atehortua, Bogota’s police commander General Hoover Penilla and Inspector General Fernando Carrillo were called to Congress by centrist House Representatives Inti Asprilla (Green Alliance) and Harry Gonzalez (Liberal Party).
The congressmen want police to immediately end fining citizens from street vendors of whom millions depend on their informal businesses to survive.
They were supported by Justice Minister Gloria Maria Borrero, who said the police was “erroneously” interpreting the police code on “stimulating of facilitating the unduly use of public space.”
Following initial uproar over a $230 fine that was given to a Bogota man who had bought an empanada, police across Colombia went even further and have, often violently, removed vendors and artists from the street.
The fine imposed on those selling empanadas without a license is four times as high as the fine for carrying a knife
Citizens have responded with indignation and ridicule, often defending the workers and at times challenging the authority by posting images and videos of them eating empanadas in front of cops.
— Freddy (@FreGaravito) February 17, 2019
Police have tried to repress the resistance and acts of civil disobedience, which has led to absurd situations in the country where almost half of the working population has no formal employment.
In one case a woman was fined for asking police if she could buy empanadas and in another case a school boy from the northern city of Sincelejo was fined for asking a cop if he liked empanadas. The latter was charged with “disrespecting authority.”
Excuse me, sir, do you like empanadas?
Anonymous school boy who was then fined
The lawmakers who called the congressional debate want to know if the police is “illegally” fining people and demand the police “immediately” end imposing fines both on informal street vendors and artists.