BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – The fatal rape of a woman in a popular park in Bogota has sparked a public outcry and led to calls for tougher action to prevent violence against women in Colombia.
Police said Tuesday that the man arrested in the May 24 attack on Rosa Elvira Cely, 35, had been jailed in another woman’s murder a decade ago but had been released. He is also a suspect in three other rapes.
About 1,000 people held a protest march Sunday in National Park, where the rape took place, to condemn violence against women as a major problem in the country. Some protesters carried flowers while others carried signs calling for an end to violence against women or saying “Not One More.”
Officials said Cely suffered stab wounds in various parts of her body and blows to her face and head, as well as injuries to her genitals and internal organs. Police said they believe something wooden was rammed inside her vagina during the attack.
Cely was taken to a hospital but died of her injuries four days later.
Police arrested 44-year-old Javier Velasco Valenzuela on Friday and they found bloody clothing at his home, said Gen. Jose Roberto Riano, the country’s deputy police director. Riano said DNA tests were being carried out on the blood.
Velasco has been charged with aggravated homicide, torture and rape.
The crime against Cely drew an indignant response from President Juan Manuel Santos, who said he hoped “a person who is capable of committing such a crime rots” in jail.
Relatives of Cely have told Colombian media that she sold cigarettes and sweets on the streets.
She was attacked before dawn in the park that sprawls across 283 hectares (699 acres) with gardens, fountains and forests. It’s unclear what she was doing in the park at that time.
Some Colombian news reports have questioned the authorities about the time it took for an ambulance to reach her.
After the attack, Cely used her cellphone to call an emergency number, saying she was in the park and could hear water nearby, said Alexander Paz, the chief of ambulance services in Bogota.
The dispatcher told police, and officers were sent to the park but couldn’t immediately find her, Paz said. The dispatcher also notified a city emergency service center at 4:55 a.m., calling for an ambulance.
Cely was located an hour later and picked up by another ambulance. After initial medical checks, the trip to the hospital took 25 minutes, Paz said.
He said she wasn’t taken to the nearest hospital but rather to a larger hospital due to the seriousness of her injuries.
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