Colombian President withdraws tax reform after protests

Colombian President Iván Duque on Sunday called on parliament to withdraw a tax reform bill that has sparked protests in several cities across the country in recent days. He reiterated that he would present a new proposal excluding the most controversial measures from the previous draft.

Protesters demand that no taxes be increased and that more social protection measures be created for workers affected by the coronavirus. Since 2019, the center-right Duque government has been trying to implement tax reform in the country – at that time there were intense conflicts.

The conservative president had announced on Friday (30) that he would reformulate the project he promoted and rejected by thousands of people, who accused him of sacrificing the middle class amid the Covid-19 pandemic and came down in the streets of the main. cities. But the announcement did not calm the demonstrators, who returned to demonstrate the next day.

On Sunday (2), Duque detailed the new version of the proposal, which will exclude the increase in VAT on goods and services and the widening of the taxpayer’s income tax base, the most controversial points of the law.

The reform is necessary to “give the country fiscal stability, protect the social programs of the most vulnerable and generate conditions for growth after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”, defended the president, who has low popularity, in his 33%.

The new version of the reform proposal, made in collaboration with political parties, the private sector and civil society, will focus on the temporary taxation of the wealthiest businesses and social classes.

Among other things, the reform will include a temporary tariff on corporate income, a tax on assets, dividends and higher incomes, as well as a bet on deepening state austerity programs, added. President.

In 2020, the GDP of Latin America’s fourth-largest economy fell 6.8%, its worst performance in half a century. Unemployment soared to 16.8% in March and 3.5 million people fell into poverty amid the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 2.9 million people have contracted the coronavirus in the country, of which 74,215 have died. In recent weeks, Colombia has entered what local epidemiologists see as a third wave of the pandemic, with further increases in cases and deaths from the disease.

In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, the national government and the city of Bogotá have imposed new lockdowns in several regions. The Colombian capital is in partial lockdown until at least May 9 and it is not possible to leave the house on weekends. On weekdays, there is a curfew between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. and non-essential stores must close at 7 a.m.

In November 2019, Colombians took to the streets for several days in protests that ended at least four dead and 500 injured and resulted in the arrest of 172 people and the deportation of 61 foreigners, accused of vandalism.

The acts of this time added to different requirements. Trade union centers have rejected possible unofficial government initiatives aimed at reducing workers’ rights and pensions; students asked for more resources for education; and the natives, more protection, since dozens of them have been murdered since Duke’s tenure began in 2018.

Protesters also questioned the president’s intention to review the peace agreement with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which disarmed the guerrillas and turned the group into a political party.

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