Colombia’s House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial tax reform on Monday as security forces violently repressed peaceful protests against the bill.
The controversial bill, which has fueled anti-government protests for weeks, passed the first plenary vote in the House with a convincing 89 votes in favor and 48 against.
The senate is set to vote on Tuesday in an extraordinary session that was called before Congress goes on its three-month Christmas leave.
The convincing victory in the House is almost diametrically opposed to public opinion, which largely opposes the tax reform that includes tax discounts for large companies.
Government steps up repression as congress votes
Soldiers and members of anti-riot police unit ESMAD were deployed inside the capitol building and around the Bolivar Square where the protests took place.
At Bogota’s National University, riot police violently cracked down on initially peaceful protests, leaving at least three students injured, one of them seriously.
#Colombia: Right now, the anti-riot police (ESMAD) are blocking the filming of its brutal crackdown at the National University. #16DParoNacional #16DElParoSigue #HumanRights #PoliceBrutality https://t.co/5kh2VfncZM
— ubique (@PersonalEscrito) December 17, 2019
Human Rights organization Campaña Defender Libertad (Defend Liberty Campaign) reported several allegedly arbitrary arrests in the vicinity of the university.
Seven people, including a human rights defender, were arrested arbitrarily in Cali, according to locals. One of the detainees was allegedly injured in the operation.
GRITAR TU NOMBRE SE HA VUELTO UNA PRÁCTICA COMÚN cuando cuerpos de "seguridad" te detienen en #Colombia Calí
— Alejandra Castillo (@alejabolivarian) December 16, 2019
In Bucaramanga, police allegedly prevented student protesters from reaching the central square where protests had been organized.
Colombia’s police tortured, sexually abused and threatened to kill unlawfully detained protesters: reports
Lawsuits mounting over police brutality
The violence and alleged terror tactics used by the security forces have triggered several lawsuits by human rights organizations who have asked the courts to guarantee protesters’ constitutional liberties.
Opposition lawmakers announced legal action against the security forces over the slew of human rights violations committed during the protests, particularly by the Bogota Police Department.
According to the Committee for Political Prisoners, more than 1,000 people were unlawfully arrested since the protests began. More than 50 of these detainees were journalists, according to the Foundation for the Freedom of Press.