How a tax reform and state terrorism triggered Colombia’s revolt

Burning police vehicle in Medellin.

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque is facing a popular uprising after a tax reform proposal caused indignation, which police brutality turned into fury.

The proposal of Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla was almost immediately rejected by the National Strike Committee after its arrival in Congress in early April.

The collective of labor unions and social organizations immediately called for Wednesday’s national strike to reject the tax reform, demand a minimum basic income and public officials’ rights to collectively bargain wages.

Duque believed that giving the tax reform a pretty name, the “Sustainable Solidarity Law,” would get it passed through Congress, but learned he couldn’t be more wrong.

Those damn corporate tax cuts

Alberto Carrasquilla (C) celebrating his 2018 tax reform before the Constitutional Court ruled it had been approved illegally. (Image: Finance Ministry)

Carrasquilla’s latest tax reform didn’t cut the tax discounts for major corporations that triggered anti-government protests that were organized by the same collective in 2019 and were the biggest in more than four decades.

Less than a year before elections, no political party other than Duque’s far-right Democratic Center supported the tax reform that would increase the tax burden on the middle class.

Indigenous organizations from southwest Colombia additionally said they joined the initiative to protest increased tolls on public roads.

Discontent grew as Duque tried using backdoors to get his tax reform through Congress while failing to address the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on healthcare, the economy and public security.

The country’s opposition was divided about whether to take to the streets, however, as hospitals were experiencing their worst crisis since the beginning of the pandemic.

Duque unites opposition

While the tax reform was all but dead in the water, the National Strike Committee announced that it would call for street protests with or without the opposition.

To everyone’s astonishment, Duque announced on Tuesday that a Bogota judge agreed to suspend the constitutional right to protest.

The move was arguably the dumbest of Colombia’s “worst president in history” as the attack on the constitution united the opposition and boasted support for the strike.

To make matters worse, Defense Minister Diego Molano knows as much about public security as any other business administrator and apparently suffers amnesia.

Same mistake, same result

The defense minister ordered the police to violently repress the protests exactly like in 2019, escalating the protests exactly like in 2019 and killing the tax reform in the process.

The National Strike Committee ordered another day of strikes and protests for Thursday and Molano ordered police in Cali to massacre civilians, which escalated protests on Friday exactly like it did in Bogota last year.

The Cali Massacre left at least 10 people dead and provided opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda with more than enough evidence to file terrorism charges against the defense minister.

Desperately, Molano claimed on Saturday that dissident FARC guerrillas were responsible for the “criminal and terrorist activity” for which he will be investigated by the Supreme Court.

In an address to the nation, Duque called on Colombians to “unite in order to move forward.”

Unitedly and unequivocally, Colombians on social media told their president to get fucked.

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