At least 17 people died and over 800 were injured in five days of protest against a proposed tax reform bill in Colombia, the Ombudsman’s Office confirmed on May 3.
According to the Ombudsman’s Office, 16 civilians and one police officer died in the clashes that first broke out last April 28, defying a court order ruling that protests should be postponed due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Ombudsman’s Office also confirmed that 846 people, including 306 civilians, were injured.
The Ombudsman’s Office used data provided by the police and the attorney general’s office, confirming reports by human rights groups that reported over dozens of people killed in protests.
However, Ombudsman Carlos Camargo told local Caracol Radio that the actual casualty figures could be higher as his office has not yet verified all 20 reports of deaths it has received.
Human rights groups, including the Human Rights Watch, and protesters have alleged that riot police squads deployed in major cities used unnecessary force, including firing at civilians.
Authorities also detained at least 431 people, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.
The protests continued despite President Ivan Duque announcing last May 2 that he has withdrawn the controversial tax reform bill that would have increased taxes on low- and middle-income citizens.
Duque had said that increasing taxes was necessary due to the economic impacts made by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colombia’s gross domestic product decreased by 6.8% last year and its unemployment rate increased.
But tens of thousands of Colombians protested the bill, saying that they were already struggling to feed their families due to the pandemic.