In Colombia, deadly protests attract international attention

In Colombia, deadly protests attract international attention

International organizations as well as high-profile celebrities are drawing attention to the situation in Colombia, where protests against a planned tax hike linked to the pandemic have left at least 19 dead and hundreds injured.

“We need help. Colombia needs help, SOS,” Latin music star J Balvin, who is Colombian, posted on Instagram, also writing in Spanish, “there is no control over the situation”.

“It is unacceptable that a mother loses her only son to brutality and that the lives of 18 other people have been taken during a peaceful protest,” said pop star Shakira, also Colombian.

The western city of Cali has become the epicenter of protests where 11 of the 19 deaths have occurred, although there have been protests across the country. Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo, its public ombudsman, said 89 people were missing as a result of the protests, media reported.

The European Union has warned against the excessive use of force by the authorities during the protests, which were sparked by the tax hike as President Iván Duque insisted on the need to repair the country’s economy. The Andean country’s economy fell nearly 7% last year due to the pandemic. Duque said on Sunday he would withdraw the proposal and said he would seek a new one.

Protesters clash with riot police during a protest against a government tax reform plan in Cali, Colombia on Monday. Luis Robayo / AFP – Getty Images

But the protests, which began last week, were also about anger over growing poverty, inequality and what advocacy groups call excessive force on the part of the police.

Further protests are planned and the High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged calm and warned against police fire.

Duque said his government would bring forward another tax reform proposal and called for unity on his nightly TV show.

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