(COLUMBIA) LATEST: A number of police stations have been attacked in the capital of Bogotá, as widespread protests run into a second week #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.06: Mayor Claudia López requested the help of the army to guard the stations, calling the violence “inadmissible”.

Colombia Protests: ‘At least 19 deaths have been confirmed since they started & the UN has urged the security forces to refrain from using firearms’ as demonstrators were gathering for fresh nationwide protests on Wednesday’

34 minutes ago

A demonstrator makes noise banging a pot during a protest against the government of President Ivan Duque on 4 May
Demonstrators are now calling for reforms in some other areas, including education and healthcare

The victims include 18 civilians and a police officer, Colombia’s ombudsman said. More than 800 people have been injured in clashes between the police and demonstrators while more than 80 others are reported as missing.

Bogotá’s city officials said 25 immediate response police commando posts, known as CAI for the initials in Spanish, had been attacked during the night. CAI are small police stations which can be found dotted across neighbourhoods and often consist of little more than a room or two.

One CAI was set on fire with 15 officers inside, who managed to escape alive, Mr López said. There were also reports of police being shot and being attacked by people with knives, she added.

On Wednesday, city officials said the night of violence across Bogotá had left 72 civilians and 19 police officers injured. Incidents were also reported in other cities including Cali, where the clashes have been at their most violent. 

Why are people protesting?

The demonstrations started on 28 April and were initially in opposition to the tax reform that the government said was key to mitigating the country’s economic crisis.

The rallies were organised by the biggest trade unions, but were also joined by many middle-class people who feared the changes could see them slip into poverty. 

AFP: The nationwide protests were initially against the now-cancelled tax reform bill

The proposal would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed, affecting anyone with a monthly income of 2.6m pesos ($684; £493) or more. It would also have eliminated many of the current exemptions enjoyed by individuals, as well as increasing taxes imposed on businesses.

On Sunday, President Iván Duque announced he would withdraw the bill. But that was not enough to stop the protests, which have become a broad call for improvements to Colombia’s pension, health and education systems, as well as against what demonstrators say is excessive use of violence by the security forces.

What is happening in Cali?

Some of the most violent incidents have been reported in the western city of Cali, the country’s third largest. Roads have been blocked and dozens of police, public and private buildings attacked. The commander of the army has been sent to the city to co-ordinate the security efforts.

AFPCali has been the scene of some of the worst clashes

The United Nations’ human rights office said on Tuesday that it was “deeply alarmed” by the violence against protesters in the city.

It said that “police opened fire on demonstrators” in Cali on Monday. While no official figures have been released yet, local media say at least five people were killed.

Kevin Reyes, a community leader, told BBC Mundo that “hooded police and military officers fired using semiautomatic weapons and rifles” during a demonstration. “There were children and mothers,” he added. 

Experts say other factors have contributed to the unrest: this is one of the most violent cities in the country, located in a region affected by decades of conflict waged by paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. They also point to the high number of weapons in the area.

“There are civilian groups calling for de-escalation of violence,” said Katherine Aguirre, a human rights expert. “But we’ve also seen groups of citizens who have started shooting from their homes, vigilantism stimulated by the flow of weapons in the city.”

What is the government saying?

The government has blamed the violence on left-wing rebels. It says it is being stoked by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) as well dissident factions of the Farc guerrilla group, who have not accepted the 2016 peace deal and have refused to disband.

“The violence was systematic, premeditated and financed by criminal organisations,” Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Police officials say, in many cases, it was their officers who were attacked as they tried to prevent “criminal elements” from looting stores and torching buses.

Meanwhile, President Duque said the government was ready for national dialogue and announced the creation of a “space to listen to citizens and construct solutions”.

It is not the first time that anti-government protests have turned deadly in Colombia. Most recently, last September, at least seven people were killed in protests triggered by the deadly tasering of a man by police in Bogotá.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: May.06: 2021:

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