Violent protests continued around Colombia on Sunday (May 2) for a fifth day as unions make more demands of the government of President Ivan Duque following his announcement that he would scrap the unpopular clauses of a tax reform proposal that sparked widespread public anger.
The proposed reform would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of $656 or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.
Since Wednesday (April 28), demonstrations were held in Bogota and other major cities, including Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla and Cartagena. Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, has seen the most intense clashes between protesters and police. At least 800 people were injured as the police clashed with demonstrators in major cities.
By Monday (May 3) at least 18 civilians and one police officer had died, according to Colombia’s office of the ombudsman, an official government agency tasked with overseeing the protection of citizens’ human and civil rights. Authorities have detained 431 people, and the government deployed the military in the worst affected cities.
Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla submitted his resignation on Monday (May 3) evening, after spending most of the day in meetings with Duque.
Experts say demonstrations continue as popular anger goes beyond the tax reform alone.
“Now it’s much more about the way the government has run the country for two and a half years, it’s about the lockdowns, it’s about popular discontent,” Mr. Guzmán with Colombia Risk Analysis told the New York Times.
The protests also go on in part, because of anger over what several human rights groups have called a heavy-handed state response in trying to control them.
The South American country of 50 million residents has seen its worst recession in half a century, with its GDP dropping 6.8% in 2020.
With reporting by AFP, Al Jazeera, New York Times