Thousands protest against tax changes proposed in Colombia

Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the government’s proposed tax proposals despite a court order to postpone the strike over concerns of an overstretched health system amid a third wave of coronavirus.

Teachers, university students, trade unions, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous groups and many others took part in the protests on Wednesday against tax changes put forward by right-wing President Ivan Duque’s government.

The government has proposed an array of new or expanded taxes on citizens and business owners and also to reduce or eliminate many tax exemptions, such as those on product sales, to help boost an economy severely affected by COVID-19.

Attendance was high in large cities including Bogotá, Medellin and Cali as well as in other smaller cities around the Andean nation. Cali saw some violent clashes with police from early in the day when a group of Indigenous Misak people tore down a statue of the Spanish colonizer who founded the city.

As rain poured down on protesters and helicopters flew overhead in Bogota’s main public square, riot police fired tear gas to disperse crowds.

There were loud explosions, police sirens and screaming crowds.

The anger among people hyped after Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla in charge of the tax reforms last week did not know how much a dozen eggs cost and publically undervalued them.

Although the tax reform spiked protests, it is not the only reason people were protesting.

After a short period of calm after Colombia’s peace deal in 2016 which ended 50 years of violence between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group and the government, the country’s security situation has regressed.

Many parts of Colombia still have little to no state presence and new armed groups have moved in to take control of illegal drug trafficking or illegal mining economies on land once controlled by the FARC. Many of these armed actors butt heads for territorial control and civilians get caught in the crossfire. Forced displacements have skyrocketed this year as a result.

Environmental and human rights activists continue to be killed and threatened, as well as demobilised FARC fighters. So far 271 former fighters have been killed since the peace deal was signed.