Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, has issued a rebuke after cadets at a police academy caused outrage by dressing up as Nazis for a cultural exchange event in honour of Germany.
Photos of the ceremony were shared on an official police Twitter account on Thursday.
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, with the red swastika armband.
Germany’s black, red and yellow flag and balloons in the same colours decorated the venue, which also featured a replica Luftwaffe plane, copies of Nazi firearms and swastikas on the tablecloths.
The pictures also showed two police officers in Colombian uniforms opening the event by cutting a ribbon.
“From the Simón Bolívar police academy in the city of Tulua, we are organising an international week with guest country Germany. With these cultural exchanges, we are strengthening the knowledge of our police students,” the police Twitter account said.
The photos met with a mixture of anger and incredulity on social media, causing 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,” Duque said on Twitter on Friday.
The police dismissed the head of the academy.
The defence ministry, under whose umbrella the Colombian police fall, 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 the capital, Bogotá, issued a joint statement expressing “total rejection of any form of apology or demonstration of Nazism”.
Under fire internationally for their brutal suppression of anti-government protests earlier this year, the Colombian police have embarked on a “transformation” campaign to improve their image, which will include a uniform change.