For the second day, thousands of people demonstrated in several cities across Colombia against the government’s unpopular tax bill.
Labor unions, students and indigenous people called for a national strike to begin on Wednesday, which started peacefully in major cities, as protesters chanted slogans against the president and the tax reform: “No a la reforma tributaria.”
As protests continued during the day, they quickly became violent.
Buses were incinerated, businesses were looted and police stations were vandalized. In the late afternoon, protesters clashed with police forces, who fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse demonstrators in different cities across the country.
Forty people were arrested for alleged vandalism and 42 police officers were injured.
In Bogota, roads were blocked and bus stops were damaged. The city of Cali put in place a 1 pm curfew after several buses were burned.
On Thursday, demonstrators came out on streets around the country again after President Ivan Duque said the government would not withdraw the controversial tax reform.
“To talk about a withdrawal when there is the possibility of making amendments, if Congress wants to, would generate a great financial and economic uncertainty with negative effects for the whole Colombian society,” said Duque to local media on Thursday. “What we have sought is to open a constructive conversation,” he added.
Opponents of the legal initiative consider that the tax reform punishes the middle class and it is inconvenient in the midst of the economic crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, which hit a new daily record for coronavirus deaths on Thursday.
Colombia records more than 2.8 million COVID-19 cases and 73,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tally. Millions of inhabitants have been put under strict lockdown as major cities battle a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.