The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed alarm Tuesday at overnight police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali. This violence comes after more than a week of protests against tax reform which have allegedly resulted in 14 deaths across Colombia.
The protests began on April 28 in response to a proposed tax reform law aimed at shoring up the country’s finances following a year of COVID-19 expenses. Among the proposed reforms are deeply unpopular sales taxes on food and utilities, as well as cutbacks and redistributions to social services. In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Ivan Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress on May 2.
Despite this withdrawal, protests in Colombia have continued, and protesters have called for a massive nationwide strike on May 5. The OHCHR has reported that activists are being harassed and threatened, with Monday night’s violence involving riot police opening live fire on protesters. On Twitter, protesters have shared video with the hashtags #SOSCali and #SOSColombiaDDHH that show tear gas, gunfire, and tanks being moved throughout the country, along with scenes of police violence against protesters.
In its statement, the OHCHR called for calm and reminded the Colombian authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.