Colombians keep protesting even after unpopular tax plan is axed

Bogota (AFP) –


Tens of thousands of Colombians protesting a tax reform plan took to the streets Saturday for the fourth straight day, even after the president vowed to withdraw the most unpopular parts of the package.

Many Colombians had complained that the tax changes would leave them poorer in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, President Ivan Duque gave in to the pressure from the streets and said he would seek a rewrite of the plan and scrap the most unpopular clauses -- lowering the income tax threshold to broaden the tax base and raising value-added taxes on goods and services.

But that was not enough to keep Colombians from marching on May Day and venting their anger against the government.

"It is not enough to withdraw the reform," said 27 year old Maria Teresa Flores in Bogota. She said the government's handling of the pandemic and other actions "blew up in our faces."

Julian Naranjo, who works in environmental issues, said, "it is incredible that in this crisis we are going through, the violence that this country is enduring," the government proposes a tax reform "that ends up making people poorer."

Besides Bogota, demonstrations were held in other major cities such as Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla and Cartagena.

The tax reform plan had been meant to raise some $6.3 billion in extra revenue over 10 years for Colombia, which saw GDP drop 6.8 percent in 2020 -- its worst performance in half a century.

Colombia, where almost one in five people are unemployed and the minimum wage is the equivalent of $248 per month, is battling a deadly new wave of Covid-19.

At 2.8 million, the country of 50 million inhabitants has the third-highest number of known coronavirus infections in Latin America, behind Brazil and Argentina. It has registered more than 73,200 deaths.