Thousands of Colombians took to the streets to march on International Workers’ Day and protest a proposal for government tax reform on the fourth day of demonstrations that resulted in at least six deaths.
Trade unions and other groups began rallies on Wednesday to ask the government of President Ivan Duke to withdraw the proposal, which initially imposed a tax on sales of public services and some food.
Kali, the third largest city in the country, has seen the loudest marches, some looting and the burning of numerous city buses.
The number of deaths is inconsistent. National Human Rights Ombudsman Carlos Camargo said three protesters had died in Cali and three other deaths had been investigated.
One death each occurred in Bogota and the city of Neiva, Camargo said. A police officer in the town of Soacha died from injuries sustained on Wednesday. Another 179 civilians and 216 police officers were injured nationwide.
Human rights group Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali and local human rights groups, which are said to have caused up to 14 deaths.
Cities at high risk of violence will continue to receive military aid, with accompanying human rights guarantees, Duque said in a video Saturday night.
Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and roadblocks took place in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were stationed in the capital.
Saturday’s protests came despite Duque’s announcement late Friday that the reform would no longer include a tax on food or utility sales or an income tax extension.
The government insists the reform is vital to stabilizing Colombia’s finances, maintaining its credit rating and funding social programs.