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Dozens injured in Colombia protests

May 6, 2021

The protests began last week after President Ivan Duque introduced a controversial tax reform bill that has been criticized as regressive. Protesters rallied in the capital, Bogota, as well as other major cities.

Weltspiegel | Kolumbien Protest gegen Polizeigewalt und Armut in Bogota
A demonstrator waves a flag during an anti-government protest in Colombia. Image: Nathalia Angarita/REUTERS

Thousands of anti-government protesters turned out again across Colombia on Wednesday, as the demonstrations against President Ivan Duque continue for the eighth day in a row.

Deadly clashes between police and the demonstrators led to dozens being injured over the course of the day.

What happened during the latest demonstrations?

The demonstrators, which included union members, students and indigenous people, rallied in various parts of Colombia's capital, Bogota. Many of the protesters carried signs calling for Duque's resignation. 

The Bogota's mayor office said 30 civilians and 16 officers were injured during attacks on police stations Wednesday. 

Protests also took place in the major cities of Medellin and Cali. 

Road blockades manned by demonstrators have sprung up in parts of the country, impeding trade. The head of a Colombian federation of coffee growers said product could not be exported out of the major port city of Buenaventura as of Wednesday, due to the blockades. 

Colombians protest tax reform

Central bank official Hernando Vargas said the blockades could deter Colombia's economic growth. 

"They are temporary effects, but they could affect the economy depending on their duration and their reach," Vargas said Wednesday.

Duque on Wednesday said 550 arrests have been made over the course of the demonstrations. He also accused drug trafficking groups of vandalism and looting during the protests.

"There will be no truce with those who commit these crimes — all of society will take them to justice," Duque said in video remarks.

Colombia: Rise in violence

What ignited the demonstrations?

The demonstrations began last week when Duque introduced a bill that would raise the burden on most Colombians by upping sales taxes and lowering the basic tax threshold. Citizens were angered by the proposal, as unemployment and poverty have spiked during the COVID pandemic. 

The number of extremely impoverished people in Colombia balooned to 2.8 million last year.

Duque shelved the tax proposal on Sunday, but the civil unrest has continued, as protesters feel his government has not done enough to tackle economic inequality and police violence in the Latin American nation. 

Demonstrators are also concerned Duque may repackage the tax reforms in a new piece of legislation. 

Official figures show at least 24 people have died in the demonstrations over the past week. More than 800 people have been injured with 89 people reported as missing. 

wd/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)