At least 17 people have been killed in ongoing anti-government protests in Colombia, after the police cracked down on protesters demonstrating over a proposed tax reform bill.
The protests first started Wednesday Apr. 29, when people took to the streets to strike against a bill introduced by president Iván Duque to overhaul taxes.
Duque said the reform would ease the country’s deficit, revive the economy and help social programs following the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, CNN reported.
But protesters say the plan, which would have increased taxes on individuals and businesses, would disproportionally impact the poorest people, who are most acutely experiencing the economic effects of the pandemic.
The demonstrations began peacefully but escalated after protesters were met with violence from riot police.
The Guardian reported that videos on social media showed police firing at protesters, sometimes at close range, ramming crowds with motorcycles and bashing people.
On Saturday May 1, Duque ordered the military in. A TV clip of a woman who cried, “Kill me too, they also killed me!” when she found out her 19-year-old son had died after being shot by police has gone viral, fueling further outrage.
On Sunday, Duque announced he would withdrawn the bill and come up with a new plan, saying that “the reform is not a whim, it is a necessity.”
On Monday, the finance minister said he would resign. However, protests have continued, morphing into larger demonstrations against the rising poverty, unemployment and inequality caused by COVID-19.
Hundreds of people have been injured, including police, and the dead include children and a police officer.
Colombia’s economy shrank 7 percent last year, while poverty rose from about 36% to almost 43% of the population, latest government figures released last week showed.