This Thursday (26), Colombia’s National Strike Committee called a new national demonstration to press for the discussion of ten popular initiative bills and reject the government’s new tax reform proposal. The acts began at 9:00 am (local time – 11:00 am Brasília time) in all departmental capitals. In Bogotá there will be five concentration points.
Among the proposals are the taxation of large fortunes, the creation of a system to guarantee a universal basic income, free and universal access to higher education, a “true police reform”, with the end of the Esquadrão Móvil Antidistúrbios (Esmad) – sort of Colombian BOPE – and guarantees of the right to demonstrate.
National Committee of Paro Communiqué:
In view of the repeated massacres and signatures of social leaders, the absence of dialogue and concertation with the social sectors of the country, on August 26 we returned to the streets in peaceful mobilization throughout the country. pic.twitter.com/MmMF1thIwO
— CGT COLOMBIA (@CGTCol) August 25, 2021
New Tax Reform
On Wednesday (25), the Economics Committee of the Congress approved the new Tax Reform bill proposed by the government. Now the text goes to the plenary. The law provides for a 5% increase in corporate income tax, as well as an incentive of 25% of the minimum wage to encourage the hiring of young people. The government says it wants to increase revenue by $15.2 billion under the law.
Finance Minister José Manuel Restrepo said he would not allow the document to become “a Christmas tree”, but 21 amendments have already been suggested by the benches.
Among the proposals for inclusion in the text is the tax exemption for companies that suffered “losses caused by the months of general strike”. They also suggest paying an amount proportional to 20% of the minimum wage each month to help with business recovery.
For workers, amendments propose to freeze civil servants’ wages for ten years, maintain emergency aid until 2022, and implement a “VAT free day (Value Added Tax)” every month to stimulate consumption.
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The president of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores de Colombia (CUT) Francisco Maltés criticized the bill, saying it is necessary to see the hidden details. “We believe that the same tax on small and mega-companies will bankrupt the small ones. And the wage freeze infringes on union freedom to discuss collective agreements,” he declared.
Meanwhile, the violence does not subside. Last Monday, a student leader was murdered in downtown Popayán, capital of the state of Cauca. Esteban Mosquera, 26, had already lost his left eye after being attacked by the Movil Antidisturbances Squadron (Esmad) in a 2018 student strike against the university reform. Family members and popular movements held a public wake with tributes in Popayan, Medellín, Mocoa and Bogotá, on Tuesday (24).
Jhon Jairo Chocué
With Jhon Jairo Chocué, 111 leaders and defenders of HRD will be signed in 2021 and 1226 since the signing of the peace agreement. pic.twitter.com/GhgIEzFlMw
— 🇮 🇳 🇩 🇪 🇪 🇵 🇦 🇿 (@Indepaz) August 25, 2021
During almost three months of general strike throughout the country, 80 murders and 343 disappeared were registered, according to a survey by human rights organizations.
According to a report by the Colombian Public Defender’s Office, 78 social leaders were murdered in 2021. 17 cases were in Antioquia, 12 in Valle del Cauca and 9 in Cauca state, all in the Colombian Pacific region.
The Institute for the Development of Peace (Indepaz) indicates that 111 social activists were murdered in the first half of 2021, and 1226 since the signing of the Peace Agreements, in 2016.
In addition, 67 massacres were registered with 243 deaths until August of this year.
Edition: Arturo Hartmann