BOGOTÁ (AP) – Protests against poverty and inequality resumed in Colombia on Tuesday after President Iván Duque presented a $ 4 billion fiscal plan to help the government pay for social programs and related expenses. with the pandemic.
Thousands of people marched during Independence Day in the main cities of Colombia as Duque outlined before Congress the achievements of his government and presented a fiscal plan to finance subsidies to low-income families who have not had a job during the pandemic.
The new plan is less than the $ 6.3 billion package it presented in April that sparked mass protests throughout Colombia, in which dozens of people died. The new protest places a higher tax burden on corporate income and discards a previous initiative that applied sales taxes to basic items such as salt and coffee.
Protesters said the new plan is not enough to boost spending on education and job creation in Colombia, where the economy contracted 7% last year and drove another 3 million people into poverty, according to national government statistics. .
“The social outbreak in Colombia continues because the government of President Duque has not solved any of the problems facing Colombian society,” said Francisco Maltés, president of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia, one of the groups leading the demonstrations in against the government.
His union is part of a coalition of labor organizations and student groups that plans to present to Congress with 10 proposals to address Colombia’s economic and social crisis. These include the dissolution of the country’s riot police, as well as the creation of a basic income program that would provide monthly payments of the equivalent of $ 260 to 10 million people.
The government’s subsidy program currently provides payments of $ 40 a month to 3 million families struggling to make ends meet in a country of 50 million people. The new fiscal plan seeks to maintain these payments, provide subsidies to companies that hire employees between the ages of 18 and 28, and finance college tuition for low- and middle-income students.
During Tuesday’s protests, which were notably smaller than those in April and May, protesters signaled that they want justice for young people who recently died at the hands of the police. Human Rights Watch says it has gathered evidence linking the police to the deaths of 25 protesters during the recent wave of marches, while local organizations say the number could be even higher.
“Colombia is in mourning,” said Atala Ojeda, a pensioner who joined one of the demonstrations in Bogotá while waving a Colombian flag with a black ribbon. “Every year and every month we have people dying.”