Colombia witnesses spate of violence and mass protests, demanding basic facilities

Protest initially started for withdrawal of tax reforms, eventually led to exploding a wider pushback over long-standing grievances.

Image source: BBC News.

Demonstrators taking part in a protest demanding government action to tackle poverty, police violence, and inequalities in the health and education systems.

Image source: BBC News.

Implementation of tax reform:

Columbia has been witnessing violence and is undergoing protest since 28th April, which sparked by proposed tax reforms by the government president, Ivan Duque. The proposal includes, increase taxes of business, remove exemptions enjoyed by individuals and decrease the threshold of salaries that would be taxed. The proposal aimed to mitigate the country’s economic crises, with the pandemic shrinking its economy by 6.8 percent last year, and unemployment soaring to 16.8 percent in March. Around half of the country lives in poverty, as per official figures. Demands:

On Sunday Ivan Duque, who withdrew the bill, and the finance minister signed for resignation. It was too late by then. The mob was outraged over the violent police response and the protest became a huge forum for people to convey their demands of wanting improved pensions, education, and healthcare system, as well as protection for activists. They also called for universal basic income and denouncing the government’s perceived failure to implement the country’s peace accords with the FARC guerrilla group. Protests:

Protestors have gathered through various parts of the country, and violent protests have raged in the country, leaving 26 dead and over 900 injured. Demonstrations have occurred in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and other parts of the country. Rallies have been organized by the biggest trade unions and were joined by middle-class people who feared that this change might lead them into poverty. Roads have been blocked, and dozens of police, public and private building has been attacked. Looting, vandalism, and clashes between the public and police have been reported. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the protests in some cities. Human rights groups have reported police brutality. Photos and videos which went viral on social media showcased thousands flooding on the street amidst this pandemic, riot police firing tear gas canisters at crowds, shooting protestors point-blank, and demonstrators throwing rocks at officers. In one video, a police officer on a motorbike can be seen fatally shooting a 17-year-old protestor, who kicked him. According to a report, the Ministry of Defense has deployed 47,500 uniformed personnel countrywide 700 soldiers. In the city of Cali alone, they have deployed 500 riot police officers and 1800 other police. Cali, the country’s third-largest city, has been worst affected, with the government asking the soldiers to patrol the streets. Meeting:

Columbian president, Ivan Duque, has met with political opponents in order to calm the unrest and expressed optimism on social media, however, the opposition attendees said, Duque, has to go a long way and work hard before the demands are met. International forums: criticized

A growing chorus internationally has spoken out against Colombia’s government, including the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union. The United Nations human rights said it is "deeply alarmed" by the violence and accused Colombia’s security forces of using excessive force against protestors. The European Union and United Nations have condemned Columbia’s police violence. The US, who funds Columbia’s security apparatus with millions of US dollars, remained quiet until Tuesday, before issuing a statement condemning vandalism and urging restraint by security forces.

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