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Colombian president withdraws tax hike; 19 people killed in protests

Colombian President Ivan Duque rescinded a nationwide tax increase plan as at least 19 people have died in ongoing protests against the measure that began on Wednesday. Photo by Carlos Ortega/EPA-EFE
Colombian President Ivan Duque rescinded a nationwide tax increase plan as at least 19 people have died in ongoing protests against the measure that began on Wednesday. Photo by Carlos Ortega/EPA-EFE

May 3 (UPI) -- Colombian President Ivan Duque has withdrawn a nationwide tax increase as more than a dozen people died during days of protests against the measure.

Duque announced the decision to withdraw the proposal in a video message on Sunday after he previously pledged Friday to remove some of the most controversial provisions of the bill following protests that began last week.

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"I am asking Congress to withdraw the law proposed by the finance ministry and urgently process a new law that is the fruit of consensus, in order to avoid financial uncertainty," he said.

On Monday, Colombia's finance minister Alberto Carrasquilla announced his resignation.

Under the original proposal, the government would have hiked taxes on anyone earning more than $656 a month, lowered the tax threshold, eliminated key exemptions and increased the number of goods subject to a value added tax.

The proposal comes as Colombia faces a COVID-19 surge with 2,905,254 people infected and 75,164 dead as a result of the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

Protests against the measure began Wednesday and at least 18 civilians and one police officer have died as police in riot gear deployed tear gas against demonstrators, the country's ombudsman said.

National police said 540 police officers were injured during the protests and more than 100 buses have been vandalized or burned.

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