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At least 20 dead and more than 800 injured: intense protests in Colombia unleash a violent crisis

2021-05-06T12:09:07.921Z

The UN has condemned police brutality during the demonstrations that began last week in response to the administration of the Iván Duque government, in particular in rejection of a tax reform that has already been withdrawn and prompted the resignation of the Minister of Finance.



Colombia is experiencing one of its most turbulent moments in decades.

After almost a week of repressed protests, which have spread to dozens of cities and municipalities, and to which citizens of all ages and sectors of society have joined,

at least 24 deaths are reported, 89 missing, including two minors , and at least 846 injured.

The massive marches are in response to the management of the Government of Iván Duque, in particular to a tax reform that he presented in recent weeks.

If successful,

the price of public services such as water and electricity, of daily consumption products such as milk, eggs, meat, tampons, rice and gasoline would have risen 19%, all in the midst of a historic pandemic

that has left reeling the middle class and plunging the most vulnerable even deeper into misery.

Colombia is experiencing its third and crudest wave of coronavirus and every day the country surpasses its death records.

With the reform, the Government also sought to

raise taxes on funeral services.  

A protester hits a pot in the Plaza de Bolívar during the national strike against the tax reform proposed by the Duque Administration, on April 28, 2021 in Bogotá, Colombia.

The country's unions came together to call a national strike in major cities, urging participants to follow COVID-19 protocols. Guillermo Legaria / Getty Images

The protests, of hundreds of thousands of people,

have been mostly peaceful.

They have also been punctuated by vandalism and violence from some groups: aside from the music, dance and protest art of collectives that support greater respect for the historically marginalized, there are also groups that have

looted markets, smashed windows, invaded shops and threatened to the employees.

Protesters clash with riot police during the national strike against the tax reform proposed by President Duque on April 28, 2021 in Bogotá, Colombia.Guillermo Legaria / Getty Images

The Government of Joe Biden has ruled on the matter through the deputy spokesperson for the State Department.

Jalina Porter said on Twitter,

“We urge maximum restraint by law

enforcement

to avoid further loss of life.

We recognize the commitment of the Government of Colombia to investigate complaints of police excesses and address any violation of human rights. "

Several US congressmen said they were alarmed by the situation, including Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, who said Tuesday that he was

"extremely concerned about the brutal response of the Police and ESMAD to the protests in Colombia".

ESMAD is the government entity charged with dispersing unrest, which has already been criticized and investigated for past abuses, particularly during the previous large national protest in November and December 2019.

[Police in Bogotá shoot an artifact at a young man in the head, seriously wounding him during the marches]

Meeks said he was particularly alarmed by what happened in Cali, the second largest city in the country, on Monday night, when members of the police opened fire on citizens protesting peacefully and lit candles in a park to protest.

Meeks asked President Duque to

"de-escalate the violence and make it clear that the excessive use of force is inexcusable."

Thousands of people are protesting the tax reform that they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase of the coronavirus pandemic yet, in Cali, Colombia, on May 1, 2021.Luis Robayo / AFP via Getty Images

They condemn police brutality

Faced with a situation that has gotten out of control, Duque withdrew the reform, and its author, the Minister of Finance, Alberto Carrasquilla, resigned.

But it was very little and very late.

The protests continue and the strongest are planned for the following days as discontent does not end with the reform.

It comes from further back and deeper:

growing poverty and inequality, the government's decades-long neglect of the countryside, the constant massacre of social leaders,

and what some national and international human rights activists and groups see as a pattern. of excessive use of police force.

Laura Guerrero (right), mother of Nicolás Guerrero, who was killed during clashes with riot police in the protests against the tax reform, cries with her husband during a vigil in honor of their son, in Cali, on May 3, 2021 Luis Robayo / AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations (UN) and the European Union

 have condemned police brutality and called for those responsible for the repression to be held accountable for their actions.

The Office of the Ombudsman in Colombia announced on Tuesday that according to its records "there are 19 deaths in Valle del Cauca, Bogotá, Neiva, Cali, Soacha, Yumbo, Ibagué, Madrid, (Cundinamarca), Medellín and Pereira," reports Noticias Caracol, a of the main Colombian news networks.

There are 19 deaths during the protests against the tax reform in Colombia

May 3, 202100: 35

The Ombudsman's Office added that “it is evaluating and classifying 140 complaints that include information on deceased, disappeared, police abuse and injured, among others, that have arrived through different citizen service channels… The complaints will be sent to the respective competent authorities for to report on the progress of the investigations ”.

Protesters clash with riot police during a protest against the tax reform launched by President Duque, in Cali, Colombia on April 29, 2021. Paola Mafla AFP via Getty Images

In addition, Duque announced this Tuesday afternoon that

several members of his Cabinet will meet to talk

with different sectors of the country that are leading the marches, according to the Colombian magazine Portafolio.

This Tuesday Colombia was

one of the most searched terms in the world on Google and on the social network Twitter,

in part after world-renowned singers such as Shakira, Maluma and J Balvin denounced on their networks what is happening in their native country.

With information from Noticias Caracol, El Tiempo and El País.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-05-06

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