It has been restless for days in a number of Colombian cities because of protests against planned tax increases. Although the disputed law has been withdrawn for the time being, protesters continue to take the streets. In the last five days, according to the National Ombudsman, at least 17 people have been killed, including 16 civilians, and 846 people have been injured.
Images circulating on social media show that protests, which started last Wednesday, are being knocked down. Particularly injured in the city of Cali, the third city of the country, was the largest city of Cali.
President Ivan Duque wants to raise billions of euros by reforming the tax system in order to address the economic crisis caused by the coronapandemic. Trade unions criticized this because tax increases would mainly affect poor people. For example, there would be a lower lower limit for salary that is subject to income tax.
On Sunday, Duque announced in a television speech to postpone tax reform and to work on new proposals to tackle the economic crisis. The Minister responsible for Finance decided to resign. The ghost did not go back into the bottle: the demonstrations continued.
The turmoil has now expanded to a broader anti-government protest. Among the protesters there is a great deal of anger over social inequality, severe coronameasures and the relatively high mortality rate due to the coronavirus. There is also anger about the shooting of a 17-year-old boy by a policeman during the demonstrations.
According to the Colombian authorities, the protest was hijacked by violent gangs. Defense Minister Diego Molano spoke yesterday of “criminal organizations that are out on looting and vandalism”. He did not say which organisations it would be. Nor did he go into the question of how many deaths have been killed.
In recent days, city buses have been destroyed or set on fire, statues have been overthrown and an independent television station stormed. The Colombian government has therefore deployed additional security forces in Cali, in particular, at the heart of the protests.
On Twitter, these images of the police bet are shared:
The mayor of that city has condemned the police brutality and calls on the riot officers not to use firearms. He says he wants to prevent society from further “militarising”. Several human rights organisations accuse the riot agents of unnecessarily violent action. The European Union has also condemned the recent violence and called on all parties to keep calm.
Since the autumn of 2019, there has been regular demonstrations against President Duques policy and harsh police actions. The protests of recent days are the most deadly to date.