Conflicts & War

Colombia protests continue despite scrapping of tax reform bill

Bogota, May 3 (EFE).- Taxi and truck drivers blocked traffic with their vehicles on Monday in a sixth consecutive day of sometimes violent protests against the Colombian government’s economic policies.

The protests, which as of Sunday had left between 16 and 21 dead, depending on the source, continued even though conservative President Ivan Duque announced that day that he would be scrapping plans to introduce a tax overhaul bill to Congress.

Taxi drivers with Colombian flags draped over their vehicles blocked traffic on some Bogota avenues to show their opposition to a proposal to legalize mobile-app based passenger transport, an initiative that Congress has already rejected.

The biggest taxi protests began in the Tunjuelito and Puente Aranda neighborhoods on Bogota’s south side, as well as in Suba and 170th St. in the capital’s northern sector. The actions led to traffic jams but unfolded peacefully.

Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said the city is experiencing a “difficult and traffic-marred day due to multiple demonstrations by (drivers of) cargo trucks, taxis and (the) continuance of the national strike.”

One-quarter of the Transmilenio public bus system “is unable to operate due to the destruction of 41 stations by vandals” during the disturbances that followed last week’s protests against the proposed tax reform, Lopez said.

Protests by taxi drivers also were seen Monday in various departmental capitals – including Cucuta, on the border with Venezuela; Pereira, in the coffee-growing region; Bucaramanga (Santander); Tunja (Boyaca); and the Caribbean cities of Barranquilla and Monteria – to denounce the “piracy” of digital platforms.

The truck drivers, who backed the protests against the tax overhaul, have said they will continue to mobilize against other government initiatives, including the Duque administration’s health reform plan.

“We feel affected by so much arbitrariness on the part of the government toward truck drivers and different business groups, by the hike in fuel prices and tolls,” said Alexander Castro, a truck driver who joined a 250-strong protest in the capital’s south-side Molinos sector.

The popular revolt against Duque’s tax overhaul, which would have required a broader swath of the country to pay income tax and raised value-added taxes on goods and services, among other controversial measures, began last Wednesday and descended into violence that left more than a dozen dead.

Most of those killed were young people who were shot by police in cities such as Cali and Ibague, according to different organizations.

Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office said on Monday that at least 16 people were killed and more than 700 were injured, although it did not provide details on the identity of the victims or the circumstances surrounded their deaths.

The non-governmental organization Temblores says 21 people were killed during the protests and 92 individuals were injured as a result of police violence.

That NGO said Sunday it is investigating “the deaths of eight demonstrators presumably attacked by police,” adding that it “documented 940 cases of police violence” between Wednesday and Saturday, as well as “672 arbitrary arrests of demonstrators” and four separate allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers. EFE


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