National strike against tax reform in Colombia to support COVID-19 costs

Colombians protested in the street against a tax reform that would collect up to 2% of the GDP. The efforts requested while the Covid-19 crisis isn’t over yet draws harsh criticism from all parts.

Collecting $6 billion USD with the tax reform

The Colombian President, Ivan Duque, and the Minister of Finance Alberto Carrasquilla presented a draft tax reform to compensate the deficit caused by the Covid-19.

The reform aims to collect 23 billion pesos ($6 billion USD) every year, which accounts for about 2.2% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

The bill extends the number of households which will be declaring and be eligible to income tax. Today, only 2% of the active population pay income tax, half of those who declare revenue. The objective is to reach 9% of the population paying income tax in the next few years.

The tax reform faces criticism, even among the majority as it impacts the middle class. While the Covid-19 crisis isn’t over yet, asking for the population to make efforts and pay for the deficit isn’t well accepted.

Teachers, unions and students called for a national strike on April 28 and are expected to protest again on May 1.

Colombians protested in the street wearing masks as the country faces a third wave of Covid-19 infections
Colombians protested in the street wearing masks as the country faces a third wave of Covid-19 infections

Unauthorized protest in Bogotá

But in order to prevent the protest, the tribunal of the region including Bogotá forbid group gathering on April 28 and May 1 in a short notice. The medicine council advised against massive gathering for preventing surge of Covid-19 infections while the country is facing its third wave of infections. Critics considered it infringed fundamental democratic rights and feared for police violence under these circumstances.

The protests were still held on April 28, and at least 2 deaths have been reported.

But other reclamations came along with the tax reform.

In fact, the Comité Nacional del Paro, an organization defending workers, had already called for protests before the reform was laid out. Teachers asks for children to be vaccinated before they can come back to class. Some are against the use of glyphosate to destroy illegal coca plants, other demands are related to the paramilitary group of ELN.

In 2019, Colombia had already faced a period of national strike that lasted several days and raised tensions so that Police shot with real bullets on protestors.

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