Protests against tax reforms continue in Colombia

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A number of police stations have been attacked in the Colombian capital Bogotá, as widespread protests run into a second week.
Mayor Claudia López requested the help of the army to guard the stations, calling the violence “inadmissible”.
Demonstrators were gathering for fresh nationwide protests on Wednesday.
At least 24 people, including a police officer, have died since the protests started. The UN has urged the security forces to refrain from using firearms.
The police were believed to be responsible for at least 11 of those deaths, Colombia’s ombudsman said. More than 800 people have been injured in clashes between the police and demonstrators while more than 80 others are reported as missing.
Bogotá’s city officials said 25 immediate response police commando posts, known as CAI for the initials in Spanish, had been attacked during the night. CAI are small police stations which can be found dotted across neighbourhoods and often consist of little more than a room or two.
The demonstrations started on 28 April and were initially in opposition to the tax reform that the government said was key to mitigating the country’s economic crisis.
The rallies were organised by the biggest trade unions, but were also joined by many middle-class people who feared the changes could see them slip into poverty. Almost half of the country’s population now lives in poverty, with inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.
The proposal would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of 2.6m pesos ($684; £493) or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.
On Sunday, President Iván Duque announced he would withdraw the bill. But that was not enough to stop the protests, which have become a broad call for improvements to Colombia’s pension, health and education systems, as well as against what demonstrators say is excessive use of violence by the security forces.
The government has blamed the violence on left-wing rebels. It says it is being stoked by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) as well dissident factions of the Farc guerrilla group, who have not accepted the 2016 peace deal and have refused to disband.
“The violence was systematic, premeditated and financed by criminal organisations,” Defence Minister Diego Molano said.
Police officials say, in many cases, it was their officers who were attacked as they tried to prevent “criminal elements” from looting stores and torching buses.
Meanwhile, President Duque said the government was ready for national dialogue and announced the creation of a “space to listen to citizens and construct solutions”.
It is not the first time that anti-government protests have turned deadly in Colombia. Most recently, last September, at least seven people were killed in protests triggered by the deadly tasering of a man by police in Bogotá.