On Tuesday, the United Nations and the European Union called for calm and warned of the use of excessive force amid further protests against the administration of Colombian President Ivan Duque, while local authorities at the epicenter of Cali reported five more dead and 33 injured.
The protests, originally intended to counter the canceled tax reform, have turned into a broad call for action against poverty and what protesters and some advocacy groups call police violence.
The western city of Cali has been the focus of protests since it began almost a week ago, and it is the site of 11 of 19 deaths confirmed by the human rights ombudsman in the Andean country on Monday.
The national police said they were investigating more than two dozen allegations of brutality, while the defense minister said illegal militias were infiltrating protests to provoke violence. read more
“Previously, as far as we know, five people were killed (and …) 33 were injured,” Carlos Rojas, Cali’s security secretary, told reporters Tuesday, citing the night before.
Since the start of the protests, about 87 people have been reported missing across the country, according to the Ombudsman.
Periodic road blockades are delaying shipments from the key Pacific port of Buenaventura, local officials said.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for calm and warned of police shooting.
“We are deeply alarmed by the overnight events in Cali, Colombia, when police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms,” spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said in a statement Tuesday.
The European Union also called on security forces to avoid violent retaliation. read more
Protests so far have led to the cancellation of the initial reform and the resignation of Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla. read more
Duque said his government will prepare another proposal – the result of consultations with legislators, civil society and business.
New Finance Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo will need to convince Colombians, many of whom have been hit by coronavirus quarantines, that reform is vital, former Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas told Reuters Global Markets on Tuesday.
Restrepo has a “huge challenge ahead,” said Cardenas.
Anger over long-standing inequality in a country of 50 million was the topic of the 2019 protests, and police brutality was the focus of the 2020 demonstrations.
Major unions, which are again planning national marches on Wednesday, say the government has failed to deliver on promises of dialogue with civil society.
On Wednesday, the march will demand a basic income guarantee, the cancellation of the government’s healthcare reform proposal and the dissolution of the ESMAD special forces unit.
Duque offered military assistance to protect infrastructure and ensure access to basic services, although mayors of cities, including Bogota and Medellin, said it was unnecessary.
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