The clashes continued, despite the fact that President Ivan Duque promised to seek to rewrite a controversial tax reform plan. At least four people were killed in the demonstrations.
Thousands of Colombians took to the streets on Saturday, on the fourth day of marches against a government proposal for tax reform.
The protests continued despite the announcement by Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday that he would dismiss the unpopular clauses in the bill.
“It is not enough to withdraw the reform,” a demonstrator from the capital Bogotá told AFP, adding that the way the government dealt with the pandemic “has exploded in our faces”.
Since Wednesday, the demonstrations have been held in Bogotá and other major cities, including Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla and Cartagena.
Reported violence linked to protests
Looting, vandalism and clashes between police and protesters have been reported in several cities. At least four people were killed in the demonstrations.
A policeman stabbed last week in the city of Soacha, south of Bogotá, died of his injuries on Friday night, according to Reuters.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse protests in some cities, local media reported.
Cali, the country’s third largest city, has the most violence linked to the protests.
Human rights groups reported possible police abuse in Cali. But the police deny the charges, insisting that they respected human rights and followed established protocols.
“The vast majority mobilize in peace and say no to looting. No to violence,” Cali Mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina said on Twitter, while sharing a video of massive protests in his city, despite the increase in COVID cases.
Ospina called for an investigation into the circumstances that led to the deaths of people in the demonstrations.
What is Colombia’s tax reform project?
The government said the reform plan is vital to stabilize the country’s finances. The intention was to raise about € 5.24 billion (US $ 6.3 billion) in extra revenue in 10 years for Colombia.
The South American country experienced its worst recession in half a century, with its GDP dropping 6.8% in 2020.
Protesters said changes in taxes, including an expansion of the income tax, would make them poorer amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The president promised to remove the clauses that leveled the tax on sales of utilities and some food.
The crisis comes at a time when Colombia is facing a deadly wave of COVID-19.
The country of 50 million inhabitants recorded the third highest number of known coronavirus infections in South America, with 2.8 million cases and 73,200 deaths.