Colombian protests continue after government withdraws tax reform Protest news

San Jose del Guavier, Colombia – Violent protests continue across Colombia as unions demand more of a right-wing government following President Evan Duke. Withdrawal of proposed tax reform This has given rise to widespread public outrage.

The government said the tax reform was aimed at stabilizing the country economically affected by the coronavirus epidemic, but the working and middle classes said the plan was to put more pressure on the rich.

An array of new or extended tariffs on citizens and merchants and the reduction and abolition of many tax exemptions, such as on the sale of goods, Many got angry.

After spending most of the day meeting with the Duke, Finance Minister Alberto Carascuila tendered his resignation on Monday evening. “My continued involvement in the government will complicate the speedy and efficient construction of the necessary conventions,” Carasquila said in a ministry statement released by Reuters.

But experts say protests are expected to continue. Alicia Gomez, a 51-year-old cleaner who supports the protests, told Al Jazeera that Colombians are tired of paying the government “more taxes” on the population, which is already struggling with the Kovid-19 epidemic.

“We have to continue to fight because if we don’t, they will completely deprive us of our rights,” he said.

The Duke has previously stated that the reforms will not be repealed, but has seen international condemnation of protests, deaths and human rights abuses against protesters by police. The President acknowledges On sunday.

Arlene Tickner, a professor of political science at Rosario University in Bogot, said: “For the first time, the government faced widespread opposition from the people.

“This tax reform was unlikely to be approved by Congress, given the growing dishonesty of the protests and the domestic and international condemnation of widespread police brutality, perhaps justifying the president’s decision.”

Carascuila was asked in a local media interview last month how much a dozen eggs cost. His unrealistic response – he said it was four times cheaper than it actually is – has sparked outrage in a war-torn country. A coronavirus-related economic crisis.

“Minister Carascuila should resign because a minister who doesn’t know that spending dozens of eggs for us is a complete embarrassment for Colombians,” said Gomez, who works in Bogot, before the minister announced his resignation.

Police have blocked a road in Bogota, Colombia, as trucks and their vehicles take part in a national strike against tax reform on May 3. [Fernando Vergara/AP Photo]

‘Intense dissatisfaction’

But popular outrage alone goes beyond tax reform; Gimena Sanchez of the Washington office of the Latin American think tank told Al Jazeera There is “intense dissatisfaction” on the streets.

“Cruel repression [of protests] It ignited and made it worse, ”Sanchez said.

“The growing insecurity and chaos in the Duke due to the people’s unpopularity and perceived distance from the people and their interest and strong peace with the economic downturn due to the seaweed and restrictions will keep them [protests] Ongoing

A national strike was called by the country’s largest unions last Thursday, and protests have been going on in Bogot মেড, Medellin and other cities since then. Kali has witnessed the most intense clashes between protesters and police.

On Monday, the National Strike Committee said Wednesday’s national strike would be scheduled, and protests would continue.

“The protesters are demanding far more than the repeal of the tax reform,” Francisco Maltes, president of the Central Union of Workers (CET), told a news conference.

The unions called for the repeal of the proposed health reform and a 10 million pesos ($ 2.0) guaranteed basic income for all Colombians, as well as rebuilding cities, ending ongoing police violence and ending heavy-handed riots, police known as ESMAD.

Police violence

Human rights groups have also condemned the country’s police force for human rights abuses during recent protests. Al Jazeera could not confirm the death toll as figures from local authorities and NGOs were widely disputed.

As many as 116 civilians and one police officer have been killed so far, according to local reports, and Tamblors, an NGO that monitors police violence across the country, said 226 protesters were killed by police and 1,1711 cases of police violence were filed.

“The current human rights situation in Colombia is critical … there is no guarantee of safety for life or protesters,” Sebastian Lange, co-director of Temblores, told Al Jazeera.

“Internal human rights verification agencies are not working,” Lange said. “We urge President Evan Duke and the police to stop this genocide now.”

On Monday, Colombian National Police Chief General Jorge Luis Vargas said two into investigations into police misconduct had been opened. On Monday, the country’s defense minister blamed recent violence on “armed groups”.

Protesters set fire to Bogot during a May 2 protest against tax reform [File: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

“Colombia is facing a special threat from criminal organizations who are behind these acts of violence,” Diego Malano told a news conference published by Reuters. Molano did not say how many people died in the recent unrest, but said the attorney general’s office would investigate.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. division, told Al Jazeera that “the need for police reform seems unnecessary as the death toll from the protests rises.”

“Protesters involved in the violence should be investigated, but this is not an excuse for the use of brutal force. Colombia’s recent experience has raised questions about whether the police and its anti-riot police force, SMAD – are capable of conducting mass control operations that respect fundamental rights, “he said.

Official attitude

But political analysts, optimistic that the protests will continue, have questioned whether Duke’s government really widens Colombian discontent.

“It started as something about tax reform, but now it’s all sorts of other things. Sergio Guzman, a political analyst with the Colombia Risk Analysis, told Al Jazeera:

Guzman said the government could start a new national dialogue, but that it was now focused on deciding who would take over as finance minister.

“I think it will give us a lot of clues as to whether it is listening to the people on our streets, because if it chooses someone from within the current party, they are proposing that they think they can handle this crisis on their own.”

University students march in Bogota on May 3 during a national strike against tax reform [Fernando Vergara/AP Photo]

Political scientist Tickner says the Duke’s presidency is characterized by a mixture of unwillingness to acknowledge legitimate sources of outstandingness, arrogance and dissatisfaction.

“With Colombia’s presidential election set for May 29 next year, he expects the situation to change significantly, as he is approaching the end of his term,” he said.

He added that he did not see the end of the protests at the moment. “There is little indication that the government is engaging in a genuine national dialogue.”

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