Colombian Government Expels German Tourist Taking Part In Deadly Protests, Bans Entry For 10 Years
Colombia’s migration authority last week announced that it has expelled German citizen Rebecca Linda Marlene Sprößer (alternatively written Sproesser). Sprößer, according to the Colombian government, entered the country in March on a 90 day tourist visa, that would have expired before July.
According to the 34-year-old flight attendant, in an interview with Colombian daily El Tiempo, she said she came to Cali for a two week vacation to learn Salsa, but when nationwide protests and riots broke out across the country at the end of April, Sprößer decided to join with the group of protesters known as the “Primera Linea” or Front Lines.
Above photo: Sprößer (3rd from right) with “Primera Linea” protesters in Cali, Colombia (photo: Facebook)
According to her conversation with El Tiempo, Sprößer, whose visa would have expired after 90 days, said she would not be returning to Germany, but planned to give classes on politics and economics to protesters. “I have never felt very German, I have always liked Latin America,” she told the paper.
Things turn deadly
On the night of July 22nd, Sprößer was with her friend and fellow protester Joan Sebastian Bonilla Bermudez, when a gunman approached and shot Bonilla 13 times. Based on her Facebook post, Sprößer believes she was the target of the attack. However, Colombian police disagree, and Bonilla’s family said in an interview that suspicious men had been searching for him recently.
Sprößer was summoned to Colombia’s prosecutor’s offices in Cali, where she gave her version of the shooting, but due to an expired visa, and what immigration officials called “activities inconsistent with a tourist visa”—protesting and political organizing as a foreigner, Migration Colombia detained her and sent her to Bogotá, then onward via commercial flight to Germany. Sprößer is banned from entering Colombia for 10 years, and then, should she wish to return, must apply for a visa.
Sprößer’s expulsion was predictably, politically divisive. José Miguel VIvanco of the nonprofit Human Rights Watch protested the expulsion, tweeting “The legislation that Migration Colombia applied against Rebecca Linda Marlene Sproesser contradicts international standards because it permits the expulsion of a foreigner who is legally in the country without guaranteeing the right to have her case reviewed by a competent authority.”
La legislación que aplicó @MigracionCol contra Rebecca Linda Marlene Sproesser contradice estándares internacionales porque permite expulsar a un extranjero que está legalmente en el país sin garantizar el derecho a que su caso sea revisado por una autoridad competente.
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) July 28, 2021
Leftist senator and presidential hopeful Gustavo Petro tweeted that “The government forcefully removed the only witness to the assassination of the youth Johan Sebastian Bonilla. It is an act of complicity with the assassins. In my government Rebecca will return to Colombia and every journalist that wishes to enter.”
El gobierno sacó a la fuerza del país a la única testigo del asesinato del joven Johan Sebastian Bonilla. Es un verdadero acto de complicidad con los.asesinos.
En mi gobierno Rebecca volverá a Colombia y todo periodista que quiera ingresar. https://t.co/qZyYczaOdp
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) July 31, 2021
Sprößer had styled herself a journalist, though she was actively participating in and supporting the protesters, rather than covering the protests. Her resumé, downloadable from LinkedIn as of publication lists her as a flight attendant since 2009 and recent college graduate but does not list any media affiliations or blogs. She lists a compulsory 6-month university internship in 2016-2017 with Romero & Braas, a “German/ Mexican production company making films, covering news, managing international productions and developing TV formats” in México City.
“When I arrived in Cali, I totally fell in love with the people, with the way of living, and I decided that I wanted to live here for a while longer. I started working as a volunteer and community manager in a very well-known dance school called Arrebato Caleño, but when the national strike began and the curfews were intensified, they could no longer give the classes that were held at night and they broke down. That was a strong motivation to join the people who started protesting. Later I thought that since I had worked in journalism in Mexico, here I could also document what was happening with my eyes. Then I started recording testimonies and abuses of the police and send them to my contacts that I had press,” Sprößer told Colombian daily “El Espectador.”
Below: Sprößer poses in Cali with a flag of the defunct M-19 guerilla group that seized the Dominican Embassy and the Colombian Palace of Justice in the 1980s. Senator Gustavo Petro is a former member of the M-19 group.
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