Although Colombian President Ivan Duque rescinded an unpopular tax reform plan, protests in Colombian cities continue for a second week, with 24 dead and an estimated 89 reported missing.
As a result of the worldwide pandemic, Colombia’s revenue has declined significantly. Due to increasing foreign debt, Colombia is increasingly dependent on exports, which were hit especially hard every day necessities.
According to The New York Times, thousands of protesters, including union members, activists, educators, students, doctors and even newcomers to protesting, were concerned about the plan disenfranchising people of middle- and lower-class backgrounds.
More than 3.6 million Colombians fell back into poverty during the pandemic as a consequence of the country’s lockdowns in response to the epidemic, CNN reported. Many could no longer afford to eat three meals a day as a result of Duque’s proposal to hike taxes on items such as food. It didn’t help that Colombia was also experiencing a third wave of the coronavirus.
By the end of 2020, Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) said that the number of people living in poverty would have increased from 35.7 percent to 42.5 percent over the course of a year.
It also noted that the protests “are a part of a movement that swept Latin America in late 2019 as citizens flocked to the streets in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. ”There were common threads connecting protests throughout the region: frustration over limited growth opportunities, corruption, and officials who appeared to be working against the public.
While the coronavirus pandemic continued to hammer the local economy, Duque was the first leader to propose a tax reform. The protests, which erupted again on April 28, were sparked not only by the proposed tax hike, but also by dissatisfaction with Colombia’s coronavirus response and a large rise in unemployment since 2020.
On Sunday, Duque rescinded the proposal, and his finance minister resigned on May 3rd.
Duque and his government also have the job of repairing not only Colombia’s finances, but also the sense of injustice and disparity that is further fueling the public’s dissatisfaction.
Violence has been used against demonstrators and police, as it has in other cases of civil unrest.
According to CNN, several instances of police using excessive force have been recorded and posted through the Internet and social media, including the use of tear gas and batons. According to the BBC, over 800 people have been injured in clashes between demonstrators and authorities. “At least 11 of the 24 deaths were suspected to be the result of police action,” according to the study. Police reform and an end to police brutality are also among the demands of demonstrators.
Between April 28 and May 3, another 89 people were reported missing.
According to the BBC, human rights groups and international organizations such as the United Nations have expressed concern about authorities’ conduct against protesters and called on security forces to stop using weapons.
One police officer was killed during the demonstrations, and the police have been the subject of frustration and attacks. Other violent actors have set fire to approximately 25 smaller police stations, also known as rapid response police commando posts, and have burned public buses.
Protesters also broke through barriers erected around the country’s Congress on May 5th and threatened the building before police held them back.
Officials from the government have praised police conduct, accusing rioters and organized crime of being to blame for the unrest. Duque, on the other hand, has not yet bowed to his political party and declared a state of emergency or siege, which would give him more influence.
Demonstrations in one Latin American country have a history of spreading to other countries in the region, according to experts and political analysts.