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EU condemns deaths in Colombia tax protests

EU Debates |
The European Commission on Tuesday condemned the deaths of those who killed during ongoing protests in Colombia against a proposed tax reform, Reuters reported. "It is really a priority to stop the escalation of this violence and to avoid any disproportionate use of force by security forces," an EU spokesman said. At least 19 people and one police officer have been killed, while hundreds were injured.
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Colombia tax protests: At least 17 dead, ombudsman says

Colombia's office of the ombudsman has confirmed that at least 17 people were killed in five days of protests against a proposed tax reform.

At least 800 people were injured as the police clashed with demonstrators in major cities.

Human rights groups and protesters have accused riot police squads of using unnecessary force.

The reforms, which would have increased taxes on low- and middle-income groups, have now been shelved.

President Iván Duque announced on Sunday that the controversial measure would be withdrawn.

The casualty figures were made public by Colombia's office of the ombudsman which used data provided by the police and the attorney general's office.

They confirm reports by human rights groups which had reported more than a dozen people killed in protests in Colombia's major cities.

Colombia's ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, told Caracol Radio that the figure of those killed could be higher than the 17 they have so far listed. He said his office had received reports of 20 deaths but had not yet been able to verify all the reports.

Colombia's ombudsman's office is an official government agency tasked with overseeing the protection of citizens' human and civil rights.

Among those injured in the clashes were hundreds of police officers, according to the ombudsman's tally.

What were the protests about?

The protests started on Wednesday, when the largest trade unions called for a national strike to oppose the now shelved tax reform.

Colombians take to the streets to oppose tax reform

The government argued that the reform was key to mitigating Colombia's economic crisis. Its gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 6.8% last year, the deepest crash in half a century, and the coronavirus pandemic has further driven up its unemployment rate.

The proposed reform would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of $656 (£470) or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.

It caused outrage among Colombians already battered by the pandemic and the protests were joined by many middle-class people who feared the changes could see them slip into poverty.

How did they get out of hand?
Protesters took to the streets in defiance of a court order ruling that the marches should be postponed because of a current spike in Covid-19 cases.

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