The UN says Colombian police in Cali ‘opened fire’ on protests sparked by a government tax proposal.
The UN rights office has condemned the “excessive use of force” by security officers in Colombia, after numerous deaths during days of protests.
The protests, which began last week, demanded the withdrawal of a tax reform proposed by the government of President Ivan Duque – he did so on Sunday, but the protests have continued.
The UN rights office said on Tuesday: “Given the extremely tense situation, with soldiers as well as police officers deployed to police the protest, we call for calm.”
“We remind the state authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” spokeswoman Maria Hurtado said.
“Law enforcement officers should abide by the principles of legality, precaution, necessity and proportionality when policing demonstrations. Firearms can only be used as a measure of last resort against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.”
Hurtado added that UN officials were trying to verify the casualty toll from the incident overnight Monday in Cali.
Authorities have detained 431 people, and the government deployed the military in the worst-affected cities.
Some NGOs accused police of firing at civilians.
The tax reform had been heavily criticised for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis.
The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending.
The aim was to generate $6.3bn between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth-largest economy in Latin America.
Hit by coronavirus restrictions, Colombia’s economy shrank by 6.8 percent in 2020, its worst performance in half a century.
Unemployment reached 16.8 percent in March, while 42.5 percent of the population of 50 million now lives in poverty.