Since last Wednesday, residents in Cali have been protesting against an increase in gas prices and utility bills included in state-proposed tax reforms. President Ivan Duque called the reform off on Sunday, but protesters have continued to rally, calling for a nationwide demonstration on May 5.
"Colombia is a close partner and ally whose stability and success is in the national interest of the US," Menendez tweeted on Tuesday. "I urge Colombian authorities and stakeholders to deescalate & create space for real dialogue to settle political differences and chart a better course for their country."
Menendez urged local authorities in Cali to respect human rights and the global standards on use of force.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it was "deeply alarmed" by police firing at and killing protesters overnight on Tuesday and expressed its "profound shock" over multiple casualties. The UN agency has been notified of at least 14 deaths, including one officer, since the start of the protests, "the majority" of which have been peaceful so far, according to the statement.
Colombia's chief human rights official has reported 16 casualties, including one police officer, in the first four days of the protests. According to the Ministry of Defense, to date 846 people have sustained injuries and 431 have been detained.