The repression of the Colombian security forces against the demonstrations against the planned tax reform may have already resulted in 27 deaths and 124 injuries. The National Strike Committee in Colombia called this preliminary assessment on Monday, May 3.
In total, more than 1,000 cases of police violence have been recorded since the protests began on 28 April, it said. Twelve of the 27 dead demonstrators were registered in Cali, the capital of the south-west Colombian department of Valle del Cauca. Of the more than 100 injured, 13 suffered eye injuries, the strike committee reported. In addition, six cases of sexualised violence and 726 arrests were recorded.
However, the figures are provisional, as the repression in Cali continued on Monday night – especially in the Siloé district, where human rights groups reported the deaths of two other people. The largest demonstrations and violent incidents were reported from Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Palmira and Manizales. “They shoot to kill,” residents of the city of Cali shout in one of the videos that circulate on social networks.
Duque withdraws tax reform
Although the strikers achieved that President Iván Duque withdrew the controversial tax reform on 2 May, on 3 May Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla also resigned. He had drafted the tax reform that would have taxed income of the middle and lower classes more heavily, while large companies and banks would continue to enjoy tax exemptions and state subsidies.
However, the committee’s spokesmen announced that they would continue to protest against the militarization of the cities. They also call for the withdrawal of the health reform, the dissolution of the particularly controversial police counter-insurgency unit (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios), which is blamed for countless human rights violations, and a mass vaccination against Covid-19. The trade union federations and several social alliances called for another day of nationwide protest.
Duque: “No Tolerance”
On Tuesday, May 4, protests continued in the main cities of Colombia and on the country roads. According to civil society organizations, the repressive violence of the security organs against the demonstrators also increased. On the seventh day of the protests, the third largest Colombian city, Cali, was also at the centre of the repression.
In the face of continuing protests, Duque threatened: “There will be no tolerance for vandalism and urban terrorism.“Previously, former President Álvaro Uribe, who is considered Duque’s political pulling father, had already poured oil into the fire. On April 30, he took to Twitter to call on “soldiers and policemen” to use their weapons. As a result, violence against the protesters escalated, especially in Cali.
While videos of excessive police violence and alleged shootings are circulating on social media, the Colombian Human Rights Office of the United Nations wrote on Twitter on May 4 that several of its members had been threatened and attacked in Cali.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and the European Union also criticized the violence, especially on the part of the Special Unit ESMAD. “We are deeply alarmed by the incidents in the city of Cali, when the police opened fire on demonstrators and killed and injured several people,” said Marta Hurtado spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We remind the authorities of their obligation to protect human rights, including the right to life, physical integrity and freedom of Assembly.”