Civil Unrest in Colombia Peaks Over Tax Proposal
Hundreds of people have been injured in recent weeks as law enforcement officers clash with protestors in Bogotá, Cali, and other major cities over a tax proposal in Colombia. At least 30 people have been killed, including one police officer.
Videos posted to social media show cops responding to peaceful protests by ramming into crowds on motorcycles and firing weapons at close range. In response, protestors attacked more than 20 police stations in Bogotá. They also attempted to burn a group of police officers alive. To make matters worse, the roadblocks established during mass protests have stalled exports of coffee (Colombia’s top agricultural export).
The civil unrest in Colombia began last month over a proposal to increase taxes on businesses and individuals.
Colombian Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, who resigned as a result of the violence, said the tax increases were necessary to repair holes in public finance caused by the pandemic and to ensure fiscal stability.
The proposal was withdrawn on May 3rd. But similar to the situation in Hong Kong when the extradition proposal was scrapped, public unrest has evolved into something larger.
“Street protests originally called in opposition to a now-cancelled tax reform in Colombia have become a broad cry for action against poverty, police violence, and inequalities in the health and education systems,” reports Reuters. Demonstrators are also calling for enhanced welfare programs and protections for human rights leaders.
“They may have guns but they can’t kill us all,” says Gabriela Gutierrez, a student who joined the tax proposal protest in Colombia. “Colombia needs change and we’ll be on the streets until we get it.”
“Every time we protest, the police draw their weapons,” argues Alejandro Rodríguez, another student protester. “We won’t be cowed by their violence.”
Severe restrictions imposed during the pandemic have been blamed for a 42.5% increase in poverty and other economic setbacks. That includes a GDP shrinkage of nearly 7%. As reported by Reuters, the number of Colombians living in “extreme poverty” increased by 2.8 million last year. This is in addition to the influx of Venezuelan refugees. They have found themselves a target of violence and resentment during these difficult times. To date, Colombia has reported 3,002,758 infections and 77,854 deaths. We can assume the actual figures are much higher.