Colombia Sends Soldiers to Cities Amid Protests Against Tax Bill
(Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s president is deploying soldiers to back up police officers after days of marches and street protests against the government’s proposed tax reforms have left at least six people dead.
President Ivan Duque said late Saturday that the military presence will continue in cities at high risk for violence “until acts of serious disturbance of public order cease.” Duque didn’t specify the number of troops to be deployed, but said they’ll respect international human rights norms.
The mostly peaceful protests have been marred by isolated acts of looting and vandalism, the burning of buses, and clashes between demonstrators and police. Five civilians and one police officer have died, three other deaths are being investigated, and hundreds of people have been injured, according to the national human rights ombudsman.
Thousands took to the streets this week to oppose the proposed tax reforms. The bill, which is being modified, initially targeted the wealthy, taxed more of the middle class, and removed some exemptions on the value-added tax. The measure was met with stiff opposition in congress, with some political parties calling for it to be scrapped entirely.
After a historic economic contraction last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the reforms are seen as a way to shrink the budget deficit and for Colombia to maintain its investment-grade credit status. Two of the three major ratings agencies rank the nation at one step above junk.
Duque late Friday ordered the Finance Ministry to revise the bill, removing some of the most contentious elements. That failed to calm demonstrations as thousands marched again on Saturday. There were calls for the protests to continue on Sunday.
“We will not allow for the destruction of public and private property, or for messages of hate to have a place in our country,” Duque said.
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