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Civil Disorder in Colombia Because of Tax Revolt; Many Dead and Injured


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Moderator comment: This topic is posted as an exception to CL content policy because of the possibility that civil unrest in Colombia could increase migration from Colombia into or through Panama.

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17 dead 800 injured in Colombia tax riots

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A vigil for the dead and disappeared

Posted 03/05/2021

At least 17 people died and more than 800 were injured in the riots that followed five days of massive protests in  Colombia against a tax reform project promoted by the government of Iván Duque, authorities reported Monday.

According to the Ombudsman, 16 civilians and a policeman were killed in the demonstrations that began on April 28 throughout the country. The Defense Ministry in turn counted 846 injured people, of which 306 are civilians.

The authorities arrested 431 people during the excesses and the government ordered the deployment of the military to the most affected cities. Some NGOs accuse the police of shooting civilians.

Defense Minister Diego Molano assured that the acts of violence are "premeditated, organized and financed by dissident FARC groups" that departed from the peace agreement signed in 2016, and by the ELN, the last guerrilla movement in Colombia.

Pressured by the demonstrations President Duque on Sunday ordered the withdrawal of the proposal that was debated with skepticism in Congress, where a broad sector rejected it for punishing the middle class and being inappropriate in the midst of the crisis unleashed by the pandemic.

Despite the announcement, on Monday morning there were already people on the streets and roadblocks in Bogotá.

On April 15, the government presented a tax reform to Congress as a measure to finance public spending in Latin America's fourth-largest economy.

But criticism rained down from the political opposition and its allies, and discontent soon spilled out onto the streets.

With the reform, the government aspired to raise about $6.3 billion dollars between 2022 and 2031, to rescue the economy.

In its worst performance in half a century, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plunged 6.8% in 2020 and unemployment climbed to 16.8% in March. Almost half of the 50 million inhabitants are in informality and poverty affects 42.5% of the population.

Duque proposed on Sunday to draft a new reform project that discards the main points of contention: the increase in the VAT tax for services and goods and the expansion of the taxpayer base with income tax.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/17-dead-800-injured-in-colombia-tax-riots

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24 dead 800 injured in Colombia protests

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Posted 07/05/2021

At least 24 people, including a police officer, have died 800 have been injured, 80 are listed as missing and 2000 arrested since the protests in Colombia began. The UN has urged the security forces to refrain from using firearms.

The police were believed to be responsible for at least 11 of those deaths, Colombia's ombudsman said.

Bogotá's city officials said 25 immediate response police commando posts, known as CAI ad been attacked during the night. CAI are small police stations dotted across neighborhoods.

One CAI was set on fire with 15 officers inside, who managed to escape alive said Bogotá Mayor Claudia López There were also reports of police being shot and being attacked by people with knives, she added.

On Wednesday, city officials said the night of violence across Bogotá had left 30 civilians and 16 police officers injured. Incidents were also reported in other cities including Cali, where the clashes have been at their most violent.

The cause

The demonstrations started on  April 28 and were initially in opposition to the tax reform that the government said was key to mitigating the country's economic crisis.

The rallies were organized by the biggest trade unions but were also joined by many middle-class people who feared the changes could see them slip into poverty. Almost half of the country's population now lives in poverty, with inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.

The proposal would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of 2.6m pesos ($684)or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.

On Sunday, President Iván Duque announced he would withdraw the bill. But that was not enough to stop the protests, which have become a broad call for improvements to Colombia's pension, health and education systems, as well as against what demonstrators say is excessive use of violence by the security forces.

Sme of the most violent incidents have been reported in the western city of Cali, the country's third-largest. Roads have been blocked and dozens of police, public and private buildings attacked. The commander of the army has been sent to the city to co-ordinate the security efforts.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/world/24-dead-800-injured-in-colombia-protests

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After failed talks Colombia protesters call National strike

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President Duque got a cold reception

Posted 10/05/2021

AFP – Bogota The main group of protesters in Colombia called a countrywide strike for  Wednesday, after a failed meeting with President  Iván Duque to defuse the crisis that triggered the repression of protests in recent days against the government.

"We call on the Colombian population to hold another day of national strike on May 12," said Jennifer Pedraza, student leader of the so-called Unemployment Committee.

For almost four hours, the organization that brings together unions, social movements, and universities spoke with Duque at the seat of government, without agreeing on a way out of the crisis that leaves 12 days of protests with an official report of 27 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

However, the NGOs Temblores and Indepaz report 47 fatalities, "39 of them due to police violence."

“We asked that the constitutional right to peaceful protest be respected and that guarantees be given for the mobilization. A simple thing of the social rule of law and, on the contrary, Iván Duque's speech was complacent with the excessive use of public force, ”Pedraza added.

The spokesmen of the movement insisted that the government, despite its offer to negotiate, did not respond to the request to stop the police violence, which prevented progress in the discussion of other claims.

“There has been no empathy for the victims of violence that has been disproportionately exercised against protesters who have done so peacefully. We have demanded that the massacre stop, we have demanded that the official and private violence against the people who are exercising the legitimate right to protest stop, ”said the labor leader Francisco Maltés.

The High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, on behalf of the executive, assured that there is "zero tolerance" for the excesses of the uniformed, but assured that they cannot forego "the legitimacy of our public force".

"The attitude of some members of the public force that have affected the Constitution and the law will be investigated and sanctioned," said the official.

Colombia is going through a new period of upheaval after the protests of 2019 and 2020. On April 28, thousands of people took to the streets against the tax increase that the government was planning, via a legislative project, to alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic.

Duque, pressured by the demonstrations, withdrew the initiative, but police repression increased popular anger against the government. Today the country faces several sources of protest that demand a change of course.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/world/after-failed-talks-colombia-protesters-call-national-strike-1

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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Civil Disorder in Colombia Because of Tax Revolt; Many Dead and Injured
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Second Colombia minister resigns

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Two weeks of protests have left 24 dead and 800 injured

Posted 14/05/2021

The Foreign Minister of Colombia, Claudia Blum, presented her irrevocable resignation when the government faces international condemnation for the violent repression of the protests that for two weeks have plagued President Iván Duque.

In a letter dated May 11, but released by her office on  May 13, Blum requested her removal from the cabinet without specifying the reasons.

"I am sure that (...) the country will continue on the path of sustainable development, in social and economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic, and in the consolidation of consensus that ratify the unity and strength of our nation ",  she wrote.

Blum left the position he had held since November 2019 at a sensitive time for the country's foreign image. The United Nations, the United States, the European Union and international NGOs denounced serious excesses committed by the police in demonstrations and riots that leave at least 42 dead and more than 1,500 injured, according to official figures and the Ombudsman's Office.

According to Colombian media, the minister planned to travel to Europe soon to share the government's version of the crisis triggered by the anti-government demonstrations amid the acute economic deterioration brought about by the pandemic.

Duque thus loses his second minister amid the social upheaval. The first was the head of the Treasury, Alberto Carrasquilla, who left office harassed by criticism of his proposal to raise taxes on the middle class in the midst of a pandemic.

Despite the fact that Duque withdrew the legislative project, the violent repression of the protests by the public force fueled discontent.

Since then, the outbreaks of protest have multiplied, without a defined agenda or leadership, but deep down they demand a more equitable country and a more supportive State, and one that guarantees life and security.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/second-colombia-minister-resigns

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Cops may have  breached constitution with Colombia message

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Posted 20/05/2021

A video showing Panamanian policemen supporting their colleagues in Colombia who have been accused of killing 41 protestors since anti-government demonstrations began on April 28 could be a breach of Panama’s constitution and interference in foreign affairs warn jurists.

"On behalf of the men and women who make up the National Police of Panama, we wish to extend to our colleagues from the National Police of Colombia, a message of solidarity in these difficult times that our sister republic is going through," says one of the three agents of the entity that take part in the video that lasts one minute and one second.

"As police officers we have the task of preserving coexistence, guaranteeing security, and always defending human rights and the dignity of everything that is manifested," says a policewoman who appears in the production. In the end, a chorus says: "encouragement and embrace from a distance."

Article 311 of the Constitution reads: The police services are not deliberative and their members may not make political statements or statements individually or collectively. Neither will they be able to intervene in partisan politics, except for the casting of the vote. Disrespect for this rule will be sanctioned with immediate dismissal from office, in addition to the sanctions established by law”.

In social networks such as Twitter, the video is subject to questioning. “This deserves a complaint about a violation of the Constitution. Indecent and offensive intervention in extremely sensitive issues. Sit down, gentlemen. Do we believe that we have a president? “said former legislator Teresita Yániz de Arias.

José Isabel Blandón, former Panama mayor and president of the opposition Panameñista Party, said: “In my opinion as a jurist, @ProtegeryServir is constitutionally prohibited from making political pronouncements like this one and worse still, on foreign policy, meddling and taking sides in the tense and serious situation that Colombia lives ”.

Colombia has experienced a social upheaval since April 28, as a result of the intentions of the government of Iván Duque to implement tax reform. Citizens opposed this measure with massive protests in the streets.

Duque withdrew his proposal but that did not appease the spirits. On the contrary, millions of Colombians continue to protest in the streets, amid reports of police repression. The non-governmental organization Temblores reports that at least 41 people have died and hundreds injured by the security forces.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/cops-may-have-breached-constitution-with-colombia-message

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Panama president fires top cop

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Gabriel Medina

Posted 22/05/2021

Panama President Laurentino Cortizo has fired the director of the National Police, Gabriel Medina the Ministry of Public Security reported on Friday night, May 21.

"As of this date, Commissioner Gabriel Medina Delgado is removed from his post, and he is replaced by the current deputy director Rafael Álvarez," a statement said.

Álvarez will be the director in charge until President Laurentino Cortizo appoints a new director.

Medina was removed a day after a video circulated on social media showing Panamanian police officers expressing support for their Colombian colleagues reported to have killed over 40  people and injured hundreds more in a brutal reaction to anti-government demonstrations.

According to some jurists and citizens, this action would violate the Constitution.

The video shows Panamanian police officers greeting and supporting their Colombian colleagues. "On behalf of the men and women who make up the National Police of Panama, we wish to extend to our colleagues from the National Police of Colombia, a message of solidarity in these difficult times our sister republic is going through," says one of the three agents of the entity that take part in the video that lasts one minute and one second.

Medina took office on January 28, 2021, replacing Jorge Miranda.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama-president-fires-top-cop

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A slap in the face for the constitution

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More than 40 people have been killed by Colombian police in a brutal crackdown

Posted 23/05/2021

The dismissal of the director of the National Police comes after the release of a video in which Panamanian agents express support for their colleagues in Colombia, at a time when a wave of protests afflicts the neighboring country. Neither the disproportionate use of force by the Colombian establishment nor the complaints in this regard by the UN, the European Union, and various human rights organizations were sufficient to prevent, in an act of doubtful illumination, a privileged mind in The Police would find it appropriate to express publicly and elaborately its unrestricted support for the perpetrators of those humiliations. Such expressions of sympathy and solidarity are a slap in the face to the Constitution, which expressly prohibits the Police from issuing any type of support for political causes, much less for situations in another country. - LA PRENSA, May 23.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/a-slap-in-the-face-for-the-constitution

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The short reign  of deposed police chief

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The installation ceremony January 28.

Posted 23/05/2021

Gabriel Medina was only director of the National Police for three months and 23 days. The video in which Panamanian police officers show solidarity with their Colombian colleagues cost him his job.

Medina took office on January 28 of this year to replace Jorge Miranda, who retired.

On the night of Friday, May 21, the country learned of Medina's removal through a statement from the Ministry of Public Security, which did not detail the reasons for the decision. However, the security agencies assure that the motive was the video, a fact that caused him recrimination from the Security Minister, Juan Pino reports La Prensa.

The video in which Panamanian police officers show solidarity with their colleagues in Colombia, a country where the uniformed officers are accused of police excess as a result of the wave of protests.

Citizens expressed outrage at the video on Thursday, May 20, a day after it began to circulate. Article 311 of the Constitution came to light, which, among other things, states that the police will not be able to make political statements or statements individually or collectively. Some even called for the removal of the Minister of Public Security, Juan Pino, and Gabriel Medina, then director of the National Police (PN).                          

Sources from the security agencies reported that there were extensive meetings on Thursday, as Pino's order not to publish the video would have been disobeyed.

The news of the dismissal of Medina was released last Friday at 9:09 pm through the Twitter account of the Ministry of Security. The press release does not state the reasons for the dismissal, but the institution assured that the reason was the controversial video.

The National Police also told La Prensa that Medina was being questioned internally, because he had not fulfilled what was entrusted to him when he was handed over to command of the institution on January 28: regulate and reform the Police, reduce its bureaucracy, depoliticize it and improve citizen care services.

Homicides increase
One of the weak points of Medina's management was the increase in homicide cases in the months of 2021. Figures from the Public Ministry show that only in the first quarter of 2021, 134 murders were committed. The two sectors with the most cases were Panama and Colón, with 39 and 28 cases, respectively. However, in April, 50 homicides were committed in Colón, forcing the police authorities to initiate operations in the streets of that province.

Panama Oeste also made noise. Last April, 43 murders were reported in the area. It is estimated that 60% is related to drug trafficking activities or the war between gangs with the desire to seize the territories for the sale and distribution of narcotics.

The theft and robbery data also resonates despite the security controls resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Figures from the Public Ministry indicate that 2,676 thefts and 1,109 robberies have been reported so far in 2021.

Police have also been in the eye of the storm for acts of abuse of authority when making arrests. Recently, an agent was charged with planting a firearm in a woman's vehicle, a fact that is still under investigation.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/the-short-reign-of-deposed-police-chief

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UN Human rights leader on Cali crackdown

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Posted 30/05/2021

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her concern on Sunday about the clashes in the Colombian city of Cali, which left more than a dozen dead and called for dialogue and an independent investigation.

"It is essential that all persons who allegedly caused injury or death, including state officials, are subject to prompt, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigations, and that those responsible are accountable to the law," Bachelet said in a statement.

Cali, with some 2.2 million inhabitants, is the epicenter of violent protests and roadblocks that exasperate part of the population.

Cornered by the protests, the Colombian president, Iván Duque, deployed the army in the city under the umbrella e of military assistance that allows soldiers to support the police in surveillance tasks.

Thirteen people died in different episodes, including a public prosecutor who killed two protesters blocking a road with his weapon. The mob pounced on the man - who was off duty - and lynched him.

The High Comissioner indicated that her office received information about armed individuals, including the off-duty officer, who had fired in the direction of protesters, journalists, and passers-by, as well as the death of the officer.

"I ask that all forms of violence, including vandalism, be put to an end, and that all parties continue to speak, so that respect for the life and dignity of all people is guaranteed," said the former Chilean president.

Bachelet thus called for dialogue to resolve the demands of the protesters and those who oppose the protests and celebrated "the commitment expressed by various actors, in Cali, and at the national level, to find a negotiated and peaceful solution."

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia indicated that it had received information from at least 30 people detained on May 28. Bachelet thus urged to guarantee "a fair trial" and to prevent disappearances.

Since April 28, crowds have mobilized daily to protest against the government for police abuses and the handling of the economic crisis that the pandemic brought.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/world/un-human-rights-leader-on-cali-crackdown

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Colombia’s bloody month-long confrontation

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Posted 01/06/2021

AFP – A proposed tax hike for the middle class turned into a major movement against the government of Colombian President Iván Duque. Below is  the timeline of   the brutal confrontation leading to at least 60 deaths over 100 “disappeared” and over 1,300 injured

 April 28, with the country at the deadliest moment of the pandemic, tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against a tax reform that they considered damaging to their pockets.

The Duque government wanted to lower the minimum taxable band, which was about $1000, to $656 per month.

Two days later, troops were dispatched to the streets of Cali, the third-largest city in the country and the epicenter of the rebellion against the reform.

Duque gave in to the pressure of the streets and announced the cancellation of his plan. Instead, he said he would proceed to temporarily increase taxes on companies and higher-income groups. However, tens of thousands remained on the streets for the fourth day in a row.

Duque says that he will use "military assistance" to confront "those who, through violence, vandalism, and terrorism, seek to intimidate society."

On May 3, the Ombudsman says that five days of protests left at least 18 civilians and one police officer dead and 846 people injured.

 International condemnation -

On May 4, the United Nations and the European Union condemn what they consider to be excessive force on the part of the security forces.

Roadblocks delay fuel deliveries and fears are growing over the supply of oxygen and medicines for Covid-19 patients.

The crisis increases and the president supports the security forces. In Bogotá, 16 police stations are attacked.

On May 5, protesters protest against Duque's policies on health, education, security and violence by the security forces. Police manage to stop protesters from storming Congress. Complex dialogue 

The next day, the government invites the leaders of the protests to dialogue, but they call for new demonstrations.

Foreign Minister Claudia Blum resigns on May 13.

Two days later, violent protests erupted in Popayán, in the southwest, after a 17-year-old girl committed suicide while in detention.

On May 20, Conmebol gave up holding the Copa América 2021 in Colombia, the largest competition in continental football. The entity made the decision citing "reasons related to the international calendar and logistics."

On May 23, Pope Francis demands a "serious dialogue" and defends the right to peaceful protests in Colombia.

Troops to Cali

Duque announces the deployment of troops in Cali on May 28 when new clashes leave at least 13 dead.

On May 30, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet calls for an independent investigation of the violence in Cali.

On the same day, the government resumed talks with protesters when the death toll for the month reached 59, including two police officers.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/world/colombias-bloody-month-long-confrontation

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Two deaths bring Colombia protest total to at least 61

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Posted 05/06/2021

At least two civilians were killed and a policeman was shot in the leg during a confrontation between the security forces and protesters in the city of Cali, the epicenter of the social outbreak that left at least 61 dead in more than a month of protests in Colombia.

According to authorities, the incident occurred on Friday night, when a group of policemen was attacked with firearms by people who tried to block one of the accesses to the third city in the country.

"A police officer was wounded and they proceeded to repel the attack and at dawn, they confirmed the death of two citizens there," reported Cali police commander, General Juan León.

Videos posted on social media show civilians crouching while gunfire erupts.

The confrontation took place in an area known as Paso del Comercio, where protesters have held a blockade since April 28, when crowds took to the streets to protest against a now-withdrawn bill to raise taxes on the middle class.

What began with a protest against taxes ended in a movement that demands police reform and a more supportive state to deal with the economic ravages of the pandemic, which this week broke records for deaths and infections.

On Friday morning authorities opened the way on this road, but during the day the protesters returned to retake the blockade.

With these deaths, the total number of fatalities during the protests reaches 61 (59 of them civilians), according to a count carried out by AFP from official sources. 

Human Rights Watch claims to have “credible complaints” about 67 deaths that have occurred since the protests began. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/world/two-deaths-bring-colombia-protest-total-to-at-least-61

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