The Colombian economy has been devastated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. An economic downturn over the course of a year has led to a rise in poverty and an unemployment rate of over 14%. Now, the Colombian government — which has long been accused of rampant corruption — has introduced a new tax reform bill that will impose new income taxes on the country’s working and middle classes.
As a result, thousands of Colombians responded by taking to the streets in a united, nationwide protest.
Protests continued despite an announcement by Colombia’s President Ivan Duque late Friday that he would scrap the bill’s unpopular clauses.
“It is not enough to withdraw the reform,” a protester in the capital Bogota told AFP, adding that the government’s handling of the pandemic “blew up in our faces.”
The tax reform bill, at least prior to the protests forcing President Iván Duque to announce that he would withdraw the legislation,would have imposed a 19% tax on essential services like water, gas, electricity, and internet as well as products like staple food items, gasoline, and medication for anyone earning more than $656 a month. Several unions that played a large role in organizing the protests said the tax would disproportionately impact the poorest people, who are already struggling with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Clashes with law enforcement during the protests, resulted in the deaths of more than 18 people, with 846 others reportedly injured.
Even though the current draft of the bill has been pulled, the government is still insisting that this type of reform is necessary in order to stabilize Colombia’s finances, reports Reuters. “It is the youth, social organizations, and mobilized citizens who have seen deaths and defeated the government,” human rights activist and progressive Colombian Senator Iván Cepeda tweeted. “May the government not present the same reform with makeup. The citizens won’t accept tricks.”