Conflicts & War

Colombians brave Covid-19 surge to protest plan for tax hikes

By Irene Escudero

Bogota, Apr 28 (EFE).- Tens of thousands poured into the streets of this capital and other Colombian cities on Wednesday to urge Congress to reject the right-wing government’s proposal for higher taxes on workers and the poor.

The protests coinciding with the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Colombia – deaths have been running at more than 400 a day – went forward despite a court ruling Tuesday calling for the events to be postponed until the achievement of “herd immunity.”

Protest is “a universal right consecrated in the constitution and cannot be restricted by any authority,” the president of the CUT labor federation, Francisco Maltes, told Efe.

The largest demonstration in Bogota took the form of a march from the National Park to Bolivar Square in the city center.

“We are mobilizing against the tax reform that is being debated in Congress and demanding a basic income for the communities and for the people of the neighborhoods that have suffered the consequences of the pandemic with the greatest force,” Maribel Salamanca, an activist in the capital’s poor Ciudad Bolivar district, told Efe.

President Ivan Duque’s plan includes an increase in the rate of value added tax on necessities and an income tax hike for people making as little as the equivalent of $660 a month.

Participants in the marches mostly wore masks and practiced social distancing.

And while the events were largely peaceful, some protesters clashed with police in Bogota and authorities in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, said that one person was killed in an incident related to the protests.

Tensions rose in Cali after a group of indigenous people pulled down a statue of the city’s founder, Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar.

Here in the capital, riot police sealed off Bolivar Square after a handful of protesters threw rocks at guards outside the entrance to the Palace of Justice. EFE ime/dr

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