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19 killed in pandemic-related Colombia protests

19 killed in pandemic-related Colombia protests
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At least 19 people — 18 protesters and one police officer — have been killed in Colombia during demonstrations protesting a proposed tax plan meant to cover a pandemic-related gap in spending.

As The New York Times reports, Colombian President Iván Duque announced on Sunday he would be withdrawing the proposal with Colombia's finance minister, Alberto Carrasquilla, announcing his resignation following days of protests. 

Duque said he would be pursuing a new plan.

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“The reform is not a whim,” Duque said, according to the Times. “The reform is a necessity.”

However, the outlet reports that these developments have done little to calm the public anger, which has grown into a national rebuke of rising poverty, unemployment and inequality that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests, which first began on Wednesday, have persisted in part due to a harsh response by the government, the Times notes, with multiple incidences of police abuse caught on camera.

Sergio Guzmán, director of the Colombia Risk Analysis group, told the Times that the public response in Colombia does not bode well for other countries in the region, which has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is one of those moments where a key break in society is happening,” Guzmán said. “And people are fed up and waking up to the power of the streets.”

The Times notes that former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, a mentor of Duque, condemned the protesters in a tweet that has since been taken down for violating Twitter's rules regarding the "glorification of violence."

Uribe tweeted Colombians should support “the right of soldiers and police officers to use their weapons to defend themselves” against "terrorism."