Thousands of Colombians took to the streets on Saturday on the fourth day of marches against a government tax reform proposal.
Protests continued despite an announcement by Colombia’s President Ivan Duque late Friday that he would scrap the bill’s unpopular clauses.
“It is not enough to withdraw the reform,” a protester in the capital Bogota told AFP, adding that the government’s handling of the pandemic “blew up in our faces.”
Since Wednesday, demonstrations were held in Bogota and other major cities, including Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla and Cartagena.
Protest-linked violence reported
Looting, vandalism and clashes between police and protesters were reported in several cities. At least four people were killed in the demonstrations.
A police officer who was stabbed in the week in the city of Soacha south of Bogota died of his injuries late on Friday, according to Reuters.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse protests in some cities, local media reported.
Cali, the country’s third-largest city, has seen the most violence linked to the protests.
Rights groups reported possible police abuse in Cali. But police deny the allegations, insisting they have respected human rights and followed established protocols.
“The vast majorities mobilize in peace and say no to looting. No to violence,” Cali Mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina said on Twitter as he shared a video of massive protests in his city, despite a surge in COVID cases.
Ospina had called for a probe into the circumstances that led to people’s death in demonstrations.
What is Colombia’s tax reform bill?
The government said the reform plan is vital to stabilizing the country’s finances. It was intended to raise some €5.24 billion ($6.3 billion) in extra revenue over 10 years for Colombia.
The South American country has seen its worst recession in half a century, with its GDP dropping 6.8% in 2020.
Protesters said the tax changes, including an expansion of income tax, would make them poorer amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The president vowed to withdraw the clauses which leveled sales tax on public services and some food.
The crisis comes as Colombia battles a deadly wave of COVID-19.
The country of 50 million residents has recorded the third-highest number of known coronavirus infections in South America, with 2.8 million cases and 73,200 deaths.
fb/aw (AFP, Reuters)