On April 28thafter the week of National Strike1 against the tax reform of President Iván Duque in Colombia, a mobilization that was harshly repressed by the police forces, the government finally gave in and withdrew the bill. On Sunday, 2ndof May Colombian President Iván Duque made a statement on television and said: “I request the Congress of the Republic to withdraw the project filed by the Ministry of Finance and urgently process a new project as a result of consensus and thus avoid financial uncertainty2“. A victory for popular mobilization but with high costs: 26 murders by shooting of public forces until 3rd of May3.
The project with a 110-page document called the Sustainable Solidarity Law4, is a tax reform with four objectives: To expand the collection base, avoid rating losses on Colombian debt, institutionalize basic income and create a fund for the environmental conservation. The objective is to raise 23 trillion pesos which are necessary due to the enormous spending for social programs that the country had to face with the pandemic. The problem is that 73% of the proceeds will come from individuals and not from companies. Likewise it is intended to collect VAT which in Colombia reaches 19% on products such as public services (water, electricity and gas), funerals, homes and others until now exempt. Income tax would be charged with salaries of more than US $ 663 in a country with a minimum income of US $ 2345. It is a measure that primarily affects the working class with salaries a little above the average, already very affected by the crisis.
Social discontent over the economic crisis also has a lot to do with the mobilizations. The Colombian economy collapsed 6.8%6, reaching 4.1 million unemployed. Added to this is the closing of more than 500,000 businesses. According to data from the National Statistics Office of Colombia (DANE) 2.3 million households only eat two meals a day7 and 19% of families do not have savings to cope with this situation.
On the other hand there are criticisms of the crisis management itself. On April 28th 19,745 new infections were reported8, the highest rate since the start of the pandemic. It is the third country in whole America that has managed the pandemic worst in number of cases per inhabitant, behind the US and Mexico9. On the other hand, there is a delay in access to the second dose and a shortage of vaccines in other age ranges. The government is criticized for its lack of transparency in not providing data on these delays.
One year after the elections the Duque government sees his image plummet. In a country where the right parties have always ruled, for the first time all the polls place the leftist Gustavo Petro with the highest voting intention10. Furthermore the victory of the mobilization which has forced the most militarized government in Latin America to bend is a great achievement for the Colombian people. However, we must not trust ourselves: Iván Duque’s promise to “urgently process a new project” is still up in the air.
1 https://colombia.as.com/colombia/2021/04/28/actualidad/1619634480_735072.html 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_tejEsD0qE 3 https://www.france24.com/es/am%C3%A9rica-latina/20210503-colombia-protestas-violencia-policial-duque 4 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1B81CbcoGM0x_PUzYq91kcMVs1DFYRKER/view 5 https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-56966451 6 https://www.efe.com/efe/america/economia/la-economia-colombiana-cayo-un-6-8-en-2020-por-pandemia-del-coronavirus/20000011-4465837 7 https://unperiodico.unal.edu.co/pages/detail/reducir-de-3-a-2-comidas-diarias-en-los-hogares-un-problema-antiguo-en-colombia/ 8 https://colombia.as.com/colombia/2021/04/28/actualidad/1619609584_044852.html 9 https://www.rtve.es/noticias/20210507/paises-muertos-coronavirus-poblacion/2012350.shtml 10 https://www.dw.com/es/l%C3%ADder-de-izquierdas-gustavo-petro-a-la-cabeza-en-intenci%C3%B3n-de-voto-en-colombia/a-57305767