Colombia’s president withdrawing tax reforms after mass protests


Right-wing President Ivan Duque’s proposed tax reforms drew widespread public anger and protests throughout Colombia.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has mentioned he’s withdrawing a contentious tax reform proposal after hundreds of protesters took to the streets throughout the South American nation for a number of days to denounce the measures.

In a video on Sunday, Duque mentioned he would ask Congress “to withdraw the law proposed by the finance ministry and urgently process a new law that is the fruit of consensus, in order to avoid financial uncertainty”.

The proposed reforms, which the right-wing authorities had insisted have been important to stabilising Colombia’s funds, sustaining its credit standing and funding social programmes, has drawn widespread public anger and protests.

The plan included new or expanded taxes on residents and enterprise homeowners, in addition to the levelling of gross sales tax on utilities and a few meals.

2021 05 02T175208Z 751249993 RC2T7N98VDY7 RTRMADP 3 COLOMBIA TAXColombia’s President Ivan Duque broadcasts the withdrawal of the tax reform invoice, in Bogota, Colombia on May 2 [Colombia Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

But many working-class Colombians, already struggling underneath a coronavirus-related financial downturn, mentioned the reforms would hit them too laborious.

“We’re here to say ‘no’ to the tax reforms,” Sol Martinez, a instructor, instructed Al Jazeera throughout a protest within the capital, Bogota, on Wednesday. “They’re robbing us poor people, while they give everything to the rich.”

Human Rights Watch mentioned it had confirmed six deaths associated to the protests. “I reiterate my urgent call for the protest to be peaceful and for the security forces to respect human rights,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, govt director of HRW’s Americas division, tweeted.

Duque had mentioned on Friday that the contentious reform can be revised, however that it couldn’t be withdrawn in its entirety.

The right-wing president’s announcement on Sunday “is a major win for the protesters” that additionally “shows just how weak the government of Ivan Duque is at this point”, Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reported from Bogota.

Rampietti mentioned Duque had run out of room to manoeuver and had grown politically remoted.

“There was widespread opposition to this reform from lawmakers and parties that make up his government coalition, and also within his own party. so really I don’t think he had a lot of other possibilities except withdrawing finally this reform,” he mentioned.

2021 05 01T192636Z 1568779049 RC277N9547YE RTRMADP 3 COLOMBIA PROTESTSDemonstrators participate in a protest in opposition to the tax reform in Bogota, Colombia, on May 1 [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Lawmakers, unions and different teams hailed the announcement as a victory. Celebratory cacerolazos, a conventional protest the place folks beat pots and pans, might be heard in some neighbourhoods.

“It is the youth, social organisations and mobilised citizens who have seen deaths and defeated the government,” left-wing Senator Ivan Cepeda mentioned on Twitter. “May the government not present the same reform with make-up. The citizens won’t accept tricks.”

Nevertheless, Duque on Sunday mentioned tax reform stays obligatory.

He mentioned political events, native officers, enterprise leaders and civil society teams have contributed useful concepts over the past a number of days.

There is consensus on the necessity for non permanent taxes on companies and dividends, a rise in earnings tax for the wealthiest and deepened state austerity measures, Duque mentioned.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without malice,” he mentioned.