Colombian finance minister steps down in wake of protests

Colombia deploys soldiers
© Chepa Beltran/LongVisual via ZUMA Wire/dpa

Colombian Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla resigned on Monday following violent protests against a controversial tax reform.

“I have accepted the resignation of Dr. Alberto Carrasquilla,” Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted.

Duque expressed his “gratitude and respect” for Carrasquilla’s contribution at the head of his economic team.

The president praised the economic team’s achievements, including what he called an “unprecedented” social programme to face the coronavirus pandemic.

The government withdrew the planned tax reform legislation on Sunday after days of protests which saw demonstrators set buses on fire and loot stores in several cities.

Several injuries as well as deaths have been reported. The Colombian government deployed soldiers to cities across the country to help support police. More protests are expected.

In a statement Monday, Colombia’s Office of the Ombudsman said so far a total of 19 people had died in the violence. It urged authorities to launch an investigation.

As a public agency, the role of the ombudsman’s office in Colombia is to oversee the protection of citizens’ human and civil rights.

In its now withdrawn tax reform draft, the government wanted among other things to reduce tax allowances, increase income tax for certain groups and abolish value-added-tax (VAT) exemptions for a number of goods and services,

This was to offset the deficits in the state budget caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duque named Trade and Tourism Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo as new finance minister.

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