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Colombia: The Brutal Rape and Murder of Rosa Elvira Cely

Last week, Colombia learned about the case of Rosa Elvira Cely [es], 35, who was found on the early morning of May 24 in a remote site at the National Park in Bogotá. She had called the emergency number 123 twice, and it was the noise by a small creek nearby which guided the authorities to the site, where she was unconscious, shaking, with bruises on her face, a stab wound on her back, and impaled, probably with a tree branch. She would die of peritonitis at a hospital in downtown Bogotá on Monday, May 28.

The story first appeared [es] on a tabloid published by Colombia's largest newspaper on May 29, and it was slowly reported on other media. Ms Cely worked as a street vendor in front of the Military Hospital, had a 11-year-old daughter, and was finishing her high school studies, wishing to become a psychologist.

This brutal rape and murder case sparked a new wave of outrage in social media: with hashtags like #RosaElviraCely and #NiUnaMás (“not one more”), Twitter users joined the demonstration and showed their outrage. There were also heated discussions [es] around whether the death penalty or life sentence should be applied to rapists and abusers.

This also prompted a demonstration at the same National Park on the morning of Sunday, June 3. Hundreds of people attended the gathering to demand justice. The event started at 10:00am local time with a concentration, where Ms Cely and many other victims of gender violence (including the women murdered in Ciudad Juárez, México) were remembered. Around 45 minutes later, people walked to the site where Ms Cely was found, where they prayed, shouted, sang songs, and a sobbing man apologized in the name of all men for the murder.

Gathering at the National Park of Bogotá, 3 June 2012

Gathering at the National Park of Bogotá, 3 June 2012

Gathering at the National Park of Bogotá, 3 June 2012

Gathering at the National Park of Bogotá, 3 June 2012

Hundreds of people walk to the remote place at the National Park where Ms Cely was found

Hundreds of people walk to the remote place at the National Park where Ms Cely was found

A banner with a photo of Ms Cely hangs at a tree close to the site she was found

A banner with a photo of Ms Cely hangs at a tree close to the site she was found

Flowers, banners, and candles lie at the tree marking the site where Ms Cely was found

Flowers, banners, and candles lie at the tree marking the site where Ms Cely was found

This banner reads, in Spanish, 'Enough of murders, rapes, acid burn (attacks), we need more severity with crime'

This banner reads, in Spanish: 'Enough of murders, rapes, acid burn (attacks), we need more severity with crime'

This other banner reads, in Spanish, It wasn't because of the skirt, booze, hour or place: NOTHING is excuse for a sexual aggression. Not one more!

This other banner reads, in Spanish: It wasn't because of the skirt, booze, hour or place: NOTHING is excuse for a sexual aggression. Not one more!

All photos were taken by the author and posted under a Creative Commons – Attribution licence [Full Flickr set]

More pictures can be found at Mike's Bogotá Blog, Soy Periodista, on Flickr search, and lncognito's Flickr (from Cali).

On the blogosphere, journalist Gloria Ortega Pérez published a post [es] abundant in pictures of the concentration. She also compiles several recent cases of gender violence in Colombia, and states:

Rosa Elvira no murió en vano. Se cercioró, antes de perder la conciencia, de exponer a su asesino, al sistema de “reacción inmediata” que jamás reaccionó, al aparato de salud indecente que estratifica la vida, a la justicia que le garantizó a su asesino la impunidad. Nos expuso a todos como sociedad. A todos, dueños orgullosos de una Constitución magnífica, que solo existe en el papel, pero cuyos fundamentos no son los estándares con los que se legisla, ni los que guían nuestras aspiraciones como sociedad.

Rosa Elvira didn't die in vain. She made sure, before losing consciousness, of exposing her murderer, the system of “immediate reaction” which never reacted, the indecent health system which divides life into social classes, the justice which guaranteed impunity for the murderer. She exposed all of us as a society. Everyone, proud owners of a magnificent Constitution which only exists on paper, but whose foundations aren't the standards used to legislate, not those guiding our aspirations as a society.

Gloria also demands “more justice and less headlines,” claiming she is “tired of war, of violence against our children, of the answer to all our problems to be more concrete, more weapons, more bullets, more men shooting against other men which aren't different but think different.”

Meanwhile, for Iván Andrade the case is just another reflection of Colombian problems [es]:

Los infinitos errores de Colombia unidos para recordarnos que el espanto es nuestra realidad, que es difícil luchar contra seres deleznables y viles como el asesino de Rosa Elvira porque el sistema los deja medrar y actuar a sus anchas. Y entonces solo nos queda la rabia.

Colombia's infinite errors [got] together to remind us that fright is our reality, that it's hard to fight despicable and vile beings as Rosa Elvira's murderer because the system allows them to prosper and act as they wish. And then we're just left with the anger.

Finally, Justellie22 highlights [es] the role played by social media, saving Rosa Elvira from forgetfulness and becoming her voice “which was stolen.”

On Friday, June 1, Police had captured Javier Velasco Valenzuela, 44, the prime suspect of the crime, a classmate of Cely who already had a criminal record [es] (including a sentence for murder and charges for abusing his stepdaughters). A second suspect, Mauricio Rojas Ariza, turned himself in on Sunday, June 3.

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