More subdued second day of Colombia tax reform protests

Luis Jaime Acosta
·2 min read

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Far fewer protesters came out on Thursday for a second day of demonstrations against a tax reform proposed by the Colombian government, which among other things would expand items subject to value-added tax.

Marches called by major unions took place across the country on Wednesday despite a judicial order and calls from local and national government to delay the action amid a deadly third wave of coronavirus infections.

"After the majestic strike on Apr. 28, today peaceful demonstrations continue in all the (provincial) capitals of the country to demand the national government withdraw this terrible tax reform," Francisco Maltes, president of the Central Union of Workers (CUT) said during a march in Bogota, in a video shared with journalists.

Military and police forces reported blockades of roads near Bogota and in Valle del Cauca province, where protesters blocked traffic to the city of Buenaventura, home to Colombia's main Pacific port.

Protester numbers were much reduced from the day before, when more than 10,000 people demonstrated in Bogota alone, according to the mayor's office.

Isolated incidents of vandalism were reported on Wednesday, mostly in the city of Cali, where a man died as police tried to disperse protesters, and several buses were set on fire.

Dozens of police and civilians were injured around the country on Wednesday and more than 30 people were arrested for alleged vandalism.

The proposed reform would also increase taxes on individuals and businesses and eliminate many exemptions. The government has said it could lower the targeted fundraising sum to as low as $4.8 billion, from about $6 billion originally, to gain lawmaker approval.

Reported daily coronavirus deaths hit a record of 505 on Thursday. More than 73,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the Andean country.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Karishma Singh)