Thursday, April 29, 2021

Colombians protest tax reform proposal (April 28, 2021)

 Thousands of Colombians protested against a controversial tax reform proposal, answering calls from the Comité Nacional de Paro to take to the streets. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful in cities around the country, though there were incidents of vandalism in Bogotá and Cali. It is a return to the social unrest that exerted considerable pressure on President Iván Duque's government in 2019 and 2020, before coronavirus lockdowns dissipated the protest movement, reports El País. The movement has demands beyond the tax reform proposal, including policies to address the unceasing murder of social leaders, police abuse, implementation of the peace accords, and welfare.

The gatherings defied calls to avoid crowds, even as coronavirus contagion hit peak levels in Colombia.

The proposed tax reform by Duque's government would increase taxes on individuals and businesses and eliminate many exemptions, and was originally meant to raise about $6 billion. Among the topics that have provoked popular anger are clauses that would tax basic services in middle class neighborhoods, funerals and an income tax on people earning $656 a month in a country where minimum wage is $248. (EFE)

The proposal has met stiff resistance in Congress, including from a coalition of parties that supports Duque’s government. Opponents argue the changes would unnecessarily burden taxpayers already stretched by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday the government lowered the amount of money it hopes to raise from the reform, in hopes of making it more palatable for lawmakers, reports Reuters.

Union leaders called for marches to continue on Thursday and announced another protest for May 19.

More Colombia
  • Some 1,600 former FARC guerrillas will have been murdered by the end of 2024 if current levels of targeted killings continue, Colombia's transitional justice tribunal said yesterday. Between April 14 and 21, seven former fighters were killed, or roughly one every 24 hours, according to a report from the investigative unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal. (Reuters)
News Briefs

  • Eight Venezuelan soldiers were killed in combat amid continuing clashes between the armed forces and illegal armed groups along the border with Colombia, according to the country's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino. (Reuters)
  • A new Crisis Group report delves into the dynamics of guerrillas, criminals and shadowy state elements who jostle for illicit profits on the Venezuela-Colombia border. The Venezuelan offensive against a dissident FARC group in the border state of Apure draws attention to what is happening more quietly along much of the border: Colombian guerrillas are penetrating deeper into Venezuelan territory. Venezuelan locals say guerrilla presence in their area began to grow in 2016, when Colombia's peace accord came into effect. (See Monday's post on Venezuelan security force abuses in the Apure operation.)
  • The Crisis Group report emphasizes the turbulence of the guerrillas’ relations with locals. Both the FARC and the ELN have acted as quasi-government's in areas of Colombia without state presence, but efforts to provide public services in southern Venezuela are "rarely undertaken in a way that wins much affection among the locals." (Earlier this week the New York Times reported that some residents have welcomed the guerrillas' "protection," see Monday's post.)
  • Peru faces a nightmare presidential runoff scenario, pitting the ideological heir to the Shining Path insurgency against the literal heir of the dictator who crushed it, write James Bosworth and Francisco Toro in the Washington Post. "To be blunt, neither candidate is fit to be president, but one of them will be."
  • A resurgence of tuberculosis is an unexpected side effect of Peru's coronavirus epidemic, as lockdowns affected treatment last year and could, around the world, propagate strains that are resistant to treatment, which also tend to be the deadliest, reports NPR.
  • An analysis in Science found a strong association between socioeconomic status and both COVID-19 outcomes and public health capacity in Santiago de Chile. The results highlight the critical consequences of socioeconomic inequalities on health outcomes.
  • Chile has designated pregnant women a Covid-19 vaccination priority and this week began issuing Pfizer doses to those with underlying health issues in their second or third trimesters. (Reuters)
  • Mexico’s electoral tribunal upheld a ruling which disqualified gubernatorial candidates Félix Salgado Macedonio in Guerrero and Raúl Morón in Michoacán from June elections because they had failed to file campaign expense reports. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador railed against the decision, calling it “a blow to democracy." (Guardian)
  • Gains in Amazon protection have been reversed under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and poses a deadly threat to the Awa Indigenous people, reports the BBC.
  • Coca-Cola agreed to sponsor a protected reserve in the Amazon rainforest, joining beer maker Heineken and a growing list of global corporations signing up to the Brazilian government’s “Adopt a Park” program, reports Reuters.
Animal Planet
  • Guyanese finches, a songbird, have become a valuable commodity in parts of the U.S., where the caged birds are pitted in competition against one another, often in parks. The fashion has promoted a boom in bird smuggling from Guyana, with finches concealed in hair curlers, reports the New York Times.
  • International animal trafficking rings often cash in on global demand for smaller, lesser-known species. The case of killifish trafficking out of Brazil shows that even lower-priced species have caught the eyes of smugglers, reports InSight Crime.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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