Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia: Man accused of high profile Bogota acid attack arrested

Women march in Colombia, 8 March 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women may be at higher risk of being disfigured by acid attacks in Colombia than in Pakistan or Bangladesh

Police in Colombia say they have arrested a man suspected of throwing acid at a woman's face, in a case that has caused outrage in the country.

Jonathan Vega, 33, is accused of attacking Natalia Ponce de Leon outside her home in Bogota last week. He is said to be a former neighbour of hers.

On Thursday President Juan Manuel Santos offered a reward for information leading to arrests in such cases.

More than 40 people are victims of acid attacks every year in Colombia.

The motivation for the attacks can be partner jealousy, personal vendettas or even disagreements with neighbours.

'Obsessed neighbour'

Police say that when he was arrested, Mr Vega had small burns caused by the same acid used against his alleged victim.

Ms Ponce, 33, suffered severe burns to 24% of her body, including her face, when she was attacked on 27 March.

She is still in hospital, where she has had undergone several reconstructive surgeries.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Santos said something must be done to tackle violence against women in Colombia

Her lawyer said that Mr Vega was a former neighbour who had become obsessed with Ms Ponce.

He made death threats after she refused to begin a relationship, he told El Espectador newspaper.


A few days after that attack, another woman in Colombia had acid thrown at her by a female neighbour with whom she had previous disagreements.

Mr Santos had announced a reward of nearly $40,000 (£24,000) for anyone providing information on the perpetrators of acid attacks.

"No more violence against women. We are all shocked," wrote Mr Santos in his Twitter account.

The Colombian Institute of Legal Medicine registered 55 such attacks in 2010 and 42 in 2011.

But support groups say the number is much higher - more than 100 per year.

By comparison, it is estimated that more than 150 women have acid thrown on them every year in Pakistan, whose population is nearly four times that of Colombia.

And according to the Dhaka-based Acid Survivors Foundation, Bangladesh, which has a population of 165 million compared with Colombia's 47 million, saw 84 attacks in 2011.

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