Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, announced this Saturday that he will keep the military in the cities where altercations and “acts of vandalism” have been reported associated with the protests that have shaken the country for four days and have left at least six dead .
“The figure of military assistance will continue in urban centers where there is a high risk for citizens and where it’s necessary to use the full capacity of the State to protect the population,” he said in a television address.
Duque also indicated that his government “will not tolerate more acts of violence or vandalism” during the demonstrations.
The controversial deployment of the military will continue, according to the president, “until the acts of serious disturbance of public order cease.”
The South American country, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, since last Wednesday plunged into days of intense protests against a tax reform proposal.
What’s going on
Unions in Colombia called for demonstrations in major cities on April 18 in protest against the proposed tax reform, which would include an increase in taxes on income and basic products.
The Colombian government maintains the need for tax reform due to the enormous expense that the country has had to face to sustain the social programs that were introduced during the covid-19 pandemic.
What began as peaceful protests turned violent in some cities, where attacks on government buildings and the transportation system were recorded.
The protests have turned particularly violent in Cali, the third largest city in the country, where bus fires and looting have occurred, as well as the destruction of banks, offices and commercial premises.
As a result, several local governments declared curfews and the police and army were deployed.
Human rights organizations assure that the protests have led to at least 14 deaths, although the figure has not been confirmed.
According to the national human rights ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, three protesters died in Cali and three other deaths were being investigated.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch indicated that it had received reports of possible police abuses in Cali.
As reported by local media, this Saturday there were isolated acts of vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and roadblocks in several cities.
Meanwhile, riot police were deployed in the capital.
Saturday’s protests came despite an announcement by Duque late on Friday that the reform will now not include food or utility sales tax or an income tax expansion.