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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 policy because there is a 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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