Colombian president withdraws tax reforms after mass protests News of protests


The tax reforms proposed by right-wing President Ivan Duque provoked widespread rage and protests throughout Colombia.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has said he is withdrawing a controversial tax reform proposal after thousands of protesters took to the streets across the South American nation for several days to denounce the measures.

In a video on Sunday, Duque said he would ask Congress “to withdraw the law proposed by the finance ministry and urgently process a new law that is the result of consensus, to avoid financial uncertainty.”

The proposed reforms, which the right-wing government had insisted on, were vital to stabilizing Colombia’s finances, maintaining credit rating and funding social programs, have sparked widespread anger and protests.

The plan included new or expanded taxes on citizens and business owners, as well as leveling the tax on sales of utilities and some food.

Colombian President Ivan Duque announces withdrawal of tax reform bill in Bogota, Colombia on May 2 [Colombia Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

But many working-class Colombians, who were already struggling with a coronavirus-related economic recession, said the reforms would affect them too much.

“We’re here to say‘ no ’to tax reforms,” said Sol Martinez, a professor, he told Al Jazeera during a protest Wednesday in the capital, Bogota. “Poor people rob us, while giving everything to the rich.”

Human Rights Watch said it had confirmed six deaths related to the protests. “I reiterate my urgent call for the protest to be peaceful and for the security forces to respect human rights,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of HRW’s America division. he tweeted.

Duke had said Friday that the contentious reform would be reviewed, but that it could not be withdrawn in its entirety.

Sunday’s right-wing president’s announcement “is a major victory for protesters” which also “demonstrates how weak Ivan Duque’s government is at the moment,” Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reported from Bogota. .

Rampietti said Duke had run out of room to maneuver and had become politically isolated.

“There was widespread opposition to this reform by lawmakers and the parties that make up its governing coalition, and also within its own party. So I really don’t think it had many other possibilities except to finally withdraw this reform.” he said.

Protesters take part in a protest against tax reform in Bogota, Colombia, on 1 May [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Lawmakers, unions and other groups hailed the announcement as a victory. In some neighborhoods celebratory cacerolazos could be heard, a traditional protest where people beat pots and pans.

“It is the youth, social organizations and mobilized citizens who have seen dead and defeated the government,” left-wing senator Ivan Cepeda said on Twitter. “The government should not present the same make-up reform. Citizens will not accept tricks. “

However, Duke said Sunday that tax reform is still needed.

He said political parties, local officials, business leaders and civil society groups have contributed valuable ideas over the past few days.

There is consensus on the need for temporary corporate taxes and dividends, an increase in income tax on richer and more in-depth state austerity measures, Duque said.

“It’s a time to work all together without malice,” he said.

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