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Colombia apologizes for police cadets in Nazi uniforms at event to honor Germany

Colombian president says ‘any apology for Nazism is unacceptable’; head of academy dismissed; German, Israeli embassies in Bogota issue joint statement condemning event

Images shared on the Colombian police official Twitter account show cadets in Nazi uniforms at event to honor relations with Germany. (Courtesy)
Images shared on the Colombian police official Twitter account show cadets in Nazi uniforms at event to honor relations with Germany. (Courtesy)

BOGOTA — Colombia’s President Ivan Duque issued an apology Friday after cadets at a police academy caused outrage by dressing up as Nazis for a “cultural exchange” event in honor of Germany.

Photos of the ceremony were shared Thursday on an official police Twitter account.

In it, students are seen dressed in the grey-green uniform of the Wehrmacht, one of them sporting a small, Adolf Hitler-style moustache.

Others are dressed in the black uniform of the SS, complete with the red swastika armband.

The black, red and yellow German flag and balloons in the same colors decorated the venue that also featured a replica Luftwaffe plane, copies of Nazi firearms, and swastikas on the table cloths.

Two police officers in Colombian uniforms inaugurated the event by cutting a ribbon, the pictures showed.

“From the SimonBolivar police academy in the city of Tulua, we are organizing an #InternationalWeek with guest country #Germany. With these cultural exchanges, we are strengthening the knowledge of our police students,” proclaimed the police Twitter account.

The photos were met with a mixture of anger and incredulity on social media, provoking deep embarrassment for the authorities.

“Any apology for Nazism is unacceptable and I condemn any demonstration that uses or refers to symbols referring to those responsible for the Jewish Holocaust that claimed the lives of more than 6 million people,” said Duque on Twitter on Friday. The Colombian president was in Israel earlier this month.

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque Marquez speaks to The Associated Press in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 9, 2021. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The police dismissed the head of the academy.

The Defense Ministry, under whose umbrella the Colombian police falls, said in a statement that its training guidelines “do not envisage in any way an activity such as the one which took place yesterday.”

The German and Israeli embassies in Bogota issued a joint statement expressing “total rejection of any form of apology or demonstration of Nazism.”

Under fire internationally for its brutal suppression of anti-government protests earlier this year, the Colombian police has embarked on a “transformation” campaign to improve its image, which will include a uniform change.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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