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World UN, EU call for calm at Colombia protests, warn of excessive force

19:25  04 may  2021
19:25  04 may  2021 Source:   reuters.com

Mother searches for son believed killed by Colombia soldiers

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By Oliver Griffin

a group of people standing around a fire: Demonstrators clash with members of the security forces during a protest against what they say was police brutality exerted in recent protests against President Ivan Duque's government's tax reform in Cali © Reuters/STRINGER Demonstrators clash with members of the security forces during a protest against what they say was police brutality exerted in recent protests against President Ivan Duque's government's tax reform in Cali

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The United Nations and European Union on Tuesday called for calm and warned of the use of excessive force at protests against the administration of Colombian President Ivan Duque, as protester deaths mounted and demonstrations continued overnight.

The protests - originally called in opposition to a now-canceled tax reform - have become a broad cry for action against poverty and what demonstrators and some advocacy groups say is police use of excessive force.

Colombia's bloody protests could be a warning to the region

  Colombia's bloody protests could be a warning to the region Tensions have hardly dissipated in Colombia after President Ivan Duque withdrew a controversial fiscal reform proposal this weekend. Six days of protests had seen at least 19 people killed and hundreds injured. Now, the demonstrations have evolved into a broader popular show of anger. © Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images Demonstrators and police clash at a protest against he tax reform bill in Bogota. Thousands of people are still taking to the streets to protest against police brutality and the economic cost of the pandemic amid Colombia's extreme inequality.

The national police has said it will investigate more than two dozen allegations of brutality, while the defense minister has alleged illegal armed groups are infiltrating the protests to cause violence.

The western city of Cali has become the protests' epicenter and is the site of 11 of 19 deaths confirmed by the Andean country's human rights ombudsman.

"No more blood in Cali," the city's mayor Jorge Ivan Ospina said in a Twitter post early on Tuesday, adding efforts are being made to prevent more loss of life.

The tax reform opposed by protesters - which would have expanded sales and income tax - has been withdrawn by the government and Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla resigned.

Duque has said his government will draw up another reform proposal - the result of consultations with lawmakers, civil society and businesses - and used his nightly television show to call for unity.

Celebrities, international groups call attention to Colombia's deadly protests

  Celebrities, international groups call attention to Colombia's deadly protests International organizations as well as high-profile celebrities are calling attention on the deaths of at least 19 people following protests in Colombia."We need help. Colombia needs help, SOS,"the Latin music star J Balvin, who is Colombian, posted on Instagram, also writing in Spanish that there's "no control over the situation.

"What we most require today is that everyone, absolutely everyone, be united in some basic purposes," Duque said on Monday.

Duque previously offered military assistance to protect infrastructure and guarantee access to essential services, though mayors of cities including Bogota and Medellin said it was unnecessary.

The United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged calm ahead of further planned protests and warned of police shootings.

"We are deeply alarmed at developments in the city of Cali in Colombia overnight, where police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms," spokesperson Marta Hurtado said in a Tuesday statement.

The European Union also called for security forces to avoid a heavy-handed response, urged calm and condemned violence.

Last year, 13 people were killed during protests sparked by the death of a man in police custody.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Alistair Bell)

Colombia ups deployment of security forces to Cali amid violence .
Colombia ups deployment of security forces to Cali amid violenceUnions called strikes on Wednesday in Colombia's main cities to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw the reform, which it presented to congress earlier this month as it tries to increase tax income.

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