Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Colombia: Twitter Twit Nearly Lynched

In 2007, the term “¿Por qué no te callas?” (“Why don’t you shut up?”) entered the Spanish-language lexicon when King Juan Carlos of Spain ordered then-Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to be quiet during a summit.  The saying could be applied to a Colombian man who could be imprisoned for his Twitter comments on a recent tragedy that claimed the lives of thirty-two children returning from a church event.

In light of Saturday’s deadly bus fire in the town of Fundación, Jorge Alejandro Pérez made remarks via his Twitter account that at best can be described as a failed attempt at dark humor and at worse the heartless ramblings of a sociopath.

“With the high price of gasoline and for it to be wasted on 32 costeñitos? That’s stupid,” said the law school student. (Costeñitos refers to residents in Colombia’s coastal communities).

Pérez mentioned, “Lets gather funds and buy a gallon of gasoline to get rid of the costeños” along with the hashtag #MePrendoComoNiñoEnBus (roughly translated as #ICatchOnFireLikeAChildOnABus).

He also referred to the death of a homeless Bogota man nicknamed “Calidoso” who was attacked and set ablaze by unknown assailants earlier this month.

“The 32 kids went to feed Calidoso…and they ended up burning in hell,” Pérez said.

The reaction from social media included criticizing his remarks along with the hashtag #RepudioContraJorgeAlejandroPerez (#RepudiationAgainstJorgeAlejandroPerez). Pérez was quickly identified since his Twitter account didn’t mention his name but did include his photo.  As a result, several hundred people Wednesday night gathered at the campus where he goes to school with the reported intent of lynching him.  A police SWAT team prevented that from happening and he was escorted to a local precinct for the rest of the evening. A police spokesman claimed that he had left his home city of Ibague but did not specify exactly where.

“I recognize that I made a mistake and I offended all Colombians with my thoughtless comments,” said Pérez in a letter purportedly written by him.  In an interview with local TV, he also asked “the Colombian people and the residents of Fundación to forgive him.”

It’s unknown if he’ll return to Ibague to his family’s residence that has been under police protection due to online threats to burn it down.  What is certain, however, is that he won't be returning to the university where he studied since administrators on Wednesday announced that he will be expelled.

The driver of the torched bus was detained after eyewitnesses claimed he left children to put gasoline into the vehicle's tank before the vehicle burned to a blackened shell.   (Some of the children were charred so badly that they have yet to be identified by family members of the missing young ones).

In addition, the head of the church could face charges of manslaughter since he may have been aware that the bus lacked the necessary technical inspection and did not have mandatory insurance.

Despite the actions of unsavory figures like Pérez, the bus drier and the church leader, the tragedy in Fundación could have been worse had it not been for the quick thinking of one of the survivors:
“He doesn’t remember much but he did say that when the bus caught on fire he took a four-year-old by the legs and through him out the window along with his brother.”

“Then another boy got stuck in the window while attempting to jump and he said ‘I’ll push you while you hold my neck and we’ll both fall out.’” This was said by Rosa María Rojano, mother of ten-year-old Juan David, who survived the bus fire and is today recognized as a hero for saving the lives of other children despite getting injured.
Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – El Tiempo; BBC News; Fox News Latino; Noticias Caracol; El Espectador;

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