Cali is rocked for a third day by protests against Ivan Duque's tax reform

Meanwhile, the Colombian president announced a new approach to the controversial reform
Demonstrators clash with members of the security forces during a protest against the tax reform of President Iván Duque's government.

AFP/RAÚL ARBOLEDA  -   Demonstrators clash with members of the security forces during a protest against the tax reform of President Iván Duque's government

A new day of protests against the government's tax reform took place on Friday in Cali, Colombia's third largest city, where clashes with police in some neighbourhoods left at least one person dead.

Thousands of people gathered for the third consecutive day in the streets of this city in the southwest of the country with Colombian flags and in a festive atmosphere where there were even fireworks, to the cry of "This is Cali".

However, in some neighbourhoods there were tense moments, with tear gas and ammunition fired by the police to break up disturbances.

The director of the Colombian police, General Jorge Luis Vargas, explained to the press that they are verifying the information of a possible death and injury in the city, but that "in the face of these reports circulating on social networks (which speak of up to seven dead), so far we have found no concrete information".

"All the procedures for accompanying and protecting public and peaceful demonstrations these days in Colombia have been carried out in accordance with the norms and protocols of human rights and the law," said General Vargas.

The NGO Temblores, which is dedicated to the care and registration of victims of police violence, informed Efe that they have a report of five deaths this past day in Cali, which they are verifying, as it is "difficult to triangulate at this time because the situation is very complex".

For his part, the mayor of Cali, Jorge Iván Ospina, said last night at a press conference that only one death by firearm has been confirmed in this city, capital of the department of Valle del Cauca, despite reports from human rights groups of several deaths.

Manifestación contra la reforma tributaria propuesta por el presidente colombiano Iván Duque, en Bogotá, el 28 de abril de 2021
AFP/RAÚL ARBOLEDA - Demonstration against Colombian President Iván Duque's proposed tax reform in Bogotá, 28 April 2021.
Difficult times

Hours earlier, Mayor Ospina assured journalists that the city "has experienced difficult moments in the last 48 hours", while saying that those who protest peacefully will have all the guarantees.

"For those who mobilise they have the backing, but for those who loot there is the authority of the state. We have received an important force and we have a strategy in place to deal with the situation, but we need all citizens," he said.

Late at night in Cali there were pots and pans banging against Colombian President Iván Duque's tax reform, a situation that was repeated in some sectors of Bogotá, such as Suba, one of the largest localities of the Colombian capital.

In Bogotá, a group of people set fire to the Modelia public transport service station, located on Avenida El Dorado, which leads to the airport, according to Transmilenio.

Friday's protests had far fewer demonstrators than the previous two days, especially in Bogotá and Medellín, where there were sit-ins and outbreaks of violence.

Manifestantes sostienen un cartel con la imagen del expresidente colombiano (2002-2010) Álvaro Uribe y del actual presidente colombiano Iván Duque con la leyenda “El que no apoya el paro, apoya a los paramilitares”
AFP/JOAQUIN SARMIENTO - Demonstrators hold up a poster with the image of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and current Colombian President Iván Duque with the caption "He who does not support the strike, supports the paramilitaries".

On the other hand, General Vargas confirmed that the commander of the Judicial Police Section (Sijín) of Soacha, Captain Jesús Alberto Solano, died after being stabbed several times when he tried to prevent the looting of a shop in that town near Bogotá.

In the last few hours, President Duque ordered the Finance Ministry to work with Congress to draft a new text of the controversial tax reform in an attempt to placate the protests.

The government says it needs to close the gap created by the coronavirus pandemic in state finances, and with the tax reform it hopes to raise 23.4 trillion pesos (about 6,302 million dollars).

In the three days of protests tens of thousands of people across the country have expressed their rejection of the government's initiative because they believe it will hit the poor, who are particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the middle class, with more and higher taxes.