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Protests in Colombia continue until day 7 as UN condemns police violence

Protests in Colombia continue until day 7 as UN condemns police violence

The United Nations human rights office said it was “deeply alarmed” by violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali, where “police opened fire on protesters” and reportedly killed and injured several people Monday night.

The statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights comes as anti-government protests sparked by a proposed tax increase enter their seventh day and show little sign of stopping.

According to the Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman, 16 protesters and a police officer have been killed in the protests since last Wednesday. But that figure does not include reports of deaths in Cali on Monday, which the UN said it is still trying to confirm.

Here’s a look at what’s going on.

Anger on the tax front

The protests began after the Colombian government proposed a tax plan to raise US $ 6.7 billion to pay off the country’s debts and maintain a basic income scheme for three million low-income people that began during the pandemic.

Protesters demonstrated in a nationwide strike against the government’s proposal on Wednesday. In Bogota, they held balloons and signs saying “no to tax reform” in Spanish.

(Fernando Vergara / The Associated Press)

In Medellin, some demonstrators performed acrobatics while protesting against the tax reform bill.

(Joaquin Sarmiento / AFP / Getty Images)

Some protests have seen clashes erupt between police and protesters, as well as property damage. A public transport bus was left in flames during a protest in Cali.

(Paola Mafla / AFP / Getty Images)

The president withdraws his plan

Wednesday was just the start. On May 1, or International Workers’ Day, on Saturday, people shouted slogans during a protest against tax reform in Bogota.

(Fernando Vergara / The Associated Press)

Police were on guard against protesters at the entrance to President Ivan Duque’s home.

(Fernando Vergara / The Associated Press)

Amid the protests, Duque withdrew the tax plan on Sunday. He said his government would develop another proposal – the result of consultations with lawmakers, civil society and business.

People on motorcycles celebrated in Bolivar Square in Bogota after the proposal was withdrawn.

(Fernando Vergara / The Associated Press)

Duque’s finance minister also resigned the next day. But large protests and roadblocks continued.

Police actions criticized

Numerous videos have appeared on social media showing police using excessive force during protests and even shooting some protesters at close range.

On Monday, people attended a vigil in Cali in honor of Nicolas Guerrero, who died after being shot on Sunday during a protest against tax reform.

(Andres Gonzalez / The Associated Press)

In its statement, the UN urged the Colombian government to protect the rights of protesters.

“The police must respect the principles of legality, precaution and the need for proportionality,” the statement said.

The protests continued until Tuesday and spread to other countries. In Argentina, demonstrators gathered outside the Colombian consulate in Buenos Aires to condemn the actions of the police during the protests. They were holding signs with messages such as: “In Colombia, they are killing us”.

(Agustin Marcarian / Reuters)

Back in Colombia, the security presence remains strong. Soldiers and army tanks were seen guarding toll booths to prevent protesters from damaging them in the suburbs of Bogota on Tuesday.

(Fernando Vergara / The Associated Press)

In a video Tuesday, Duque said the government was ready for a national dialogue. Mass marches and a national strike are scheduled for Wednesday.

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