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Colombian Police Cracked Down On Protesters Striking Against Poverty And Inequality, Leaving 17 Dead

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.

People hold a sign reading Democracy is not in quarantine during protest against a tax reform bill they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic, in Cali, Colombia.
People hold a sign reading Democracy is not in quarantine during protest against a tax reform bill they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic, in Cali, Colombia. (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

A protester holds a Colombian flag and a sign that reads "Plandemic" during the national strike against the tax reform proposed by Duque's administration in Bogota, Colombia. Unions joined to call to a national strike and demonstrations in major cities, urging participants to follow COVID-19 protocols. They seek to sink a tax reform which proposes elimination of VAT free goods.
A protester holds a Colombian flag and a sign that reads “Plandemic” during the national strike against the tax reform proposed by Duque’s administration in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images)

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.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against a tax reform bill launched by Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia.
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against a tax reform bill launched by Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia. (Photo by PAOLA MAFLA/AFP via Getty Images)

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.”

Demonstrators take cover behind makeshift shields during clashes with riot police officers following a protest against a tax reform bill launched by President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia.
Demonstrators take cover behind makeshift shields during clashes with riot police officers following a protest against a tax reform bill launched by President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia. (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

Protesters clash with riot police officers during the International Workers Day against the tax reform proposed by President of Colombia Duque's administration in Bogota, Colombia.
Protesters clash with riot police officers during the International Workers Day against the tax reform proposed by President of Colombia Duque’s administration in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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.

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