- Daniel Bardot
- BBC World News in Colombia
At least 19 people (including 18 civilians and a police officer) and 800 people have been injured in five days of protests against a tax reform plan in Colombia, according to the Colombian Public Safety Office.
Local human rights groups put the death toll at more than 20.
The crisis drew the attention of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has accused Colombian security forces of overuse. The UN said it was particularly shocked by the events in Galle on Monday night (May 3). Said.
Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano has blamed armed groups for the violence, but has not confirmed the circumstances of the deaths of several protesters.
Despite the Colombian government’s abandonment of the tax plan, protests must continue: there are plans to hold a large demonstration on Wednesday in response to the deaths so far.
Next, BBC News explains the main reasons behind the popular uprising, beginning with the Mundo (BBC Spanish service) reform:
‘Ensuring the Continuity of Community Programs’
Last Sunday, President Ivan Duke, already facing four consecutive days of protests, called on Congress to remove the tax reform bill from the voter list so that it could be amended “to avoid uncertainty as a result of a unanimous decision”.
“Reform is not an option, it is a necessity,” Duke continued Sunday. “Whether or not to remove it (from the agenda) is not a debate. The real plan can guarantee the continuity of community programs.”
In addition to increasing tax collections and preventing Colombian debt from losing too many points in risk assessments by international firms, the plan included controversial points such as raising taxes on income and basic products, in addition to institutionalizing and generating revenue. Environmental Protection Fund.
The government defended the need for this increase as a way to raise the equivalent of 2% of GDP and to retain community programs implemented during the Govt-19 epidemics.
Critics of the plan argue that the increase in revenue should not be at the expense of an increase in the income tax of the middle class, even if the plan includes a higher tax on the wealth of millionaires.
Various economists agree that Colombia needs a tax reform that will allow it to keep its accounts up-to-date, further mobilize and protect Colombia’s reputation with international lenders.
Duke’s proposal was seen as “ambitious” and “progressive” for a center-right government, by creating permanent mechanisms for distributing income to the most vulnerable people and raising the taxation of the rich.
But when it was presented to Congress in the midst of the social crisis caused by the epidemic, many considered the timing of the “income” program – and “not enough” in an effort to distribute the revenue.
Now, the question is what kind of update will replace the original plan.
Moreover, even when the Duke announced that he was suspending the project, the cry for social struggle continued, with the slogan “The strike continues” – referring to the original name of the movement that led the protests: the national strike.
Although this movement has been criticized for putting forward numerous demands and being very diverse and difficult to define, there are three common lines that make it up.
1. More Equality Economy
Despite Duke’s attempt to highlight the shared value of his tax reform, his government’s economic efforts remain an insurmountable obstacle: distrust.
Duke, an ally of the private sector serious ally and his (now former) finance minister Alberto Carasquila, resigned on Monday under pressure from opponents, known for his neo-liberal legacy in favor of big corporations. In this way, both embody the economic model that protests target.
Although this model has allowed for Colombia’s economic stability, it remains one of the most unequal countries in Latin America and the world.
The people’s movement argues that the Colombian economy is “rooted in political clients”, which has exempted large agricultural and mining oligopolies from taxes.
2. Police reform
The pessimism of the opposition extends beyond the economic model and against the security forces, a key institution in a country with 60 years of armed conflict.
During the first four days of this week’s protests, local volunteer organization Templars documented 940 cases of police violence and are investigating the deaths of eight protesters who were allegedly attacked by police.
In September 2020, 13 people were killed during a police crackdown in Bogot during a protest that sparked a debate over the need for police reform, including the removal of a group accused of suppressing protests.
The Colombian police are part of the Ministry of Defense and in their training, language and objectives – are structured for the context of an armed conflict against a determined enemy: Marxist guerrillas.
Two weeks ago, as a signal of support for the reform, Duke created a military justice body with “financial, administrative and operational independence” under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense.
However, the move has drawn criticism because members of the police force continue to be interrogated by the military.
3. Better implementation of peace processes
The search for a different economic model and a different police force is associated with the idea of a new country.
The generation that led to the street protests, which grew up in a war-torn country, under the polarization of the Cold War, today has a policy of overcoming the shocks of conflict and allowing education, social rights and topics to be discussed. Legalizing Drugs – Other themes that have not been in the decades of the Colombian debate.
In this sense, one of the first gestures they expected from the government was the implementation in 2016 of a peace agreement signed by pioneer Juan Manuel Santos with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Duke defends a policy of peace whose main objective is the productive development of areas most affected by the armed conflict. But critics say the partial implementation of the plan has led to massacres, assassinations of community leaders and mass displacement of people living in remote areas of the country – bringing back painful memories of difficult times of fighting.
One of the Duke’s key strategies against guerrillas and armed groups funded from drug trafficking was the reactivation of glyphosate spray on cacao leaf crops, which was interrupted in 2015 on the recommendation of the World Health Organization and after several farmer protests.
On Saturday, Duke stressed the importance of the military in controlling popular protests. In the words of one opponent, the fact that the president will respond to conflicts with the same tactics of the past is evidence of a group affiliated with Eurism – former President Alvaro Eurip and who the current president is close to. “Turn the page, because conflict is convenient for his fantastic speech”.
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