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A general strike against a new tax bill saw Colombia's main cities flooded with protesters Friday. The Government of president Ivan Duque responded with violence, leaving scores of demonstrators injured and at least eight dead, according to human rights groups.
President Ivan Duque's government reinforced the military presence in Cali and Bogota.
In Cali, capital of Valle del Cauca province, where most of the violence was registered, there are so far "three missing people, 84 detained and 24 injured," tweeted @Col_Informa news agency, which also added that a woman was sexually attacked by a Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) agent.
Talking to the press on Saturday, Interior Minister Daniel Palacios did not report on fatalities or injured civilians . He only reported six police officers injured, and reinforcement of security forces.
"At this moment, there are 1.780 police officers to guarantee the security of all people in Cali," said Palacios, who also confirmed the presence of 700 soldiers and two army Black Hawk helicopters.
����In #Colombia scenes from Bogotá where the police repressed protesters that had joined a national strike against the right-wing Duque government over a proposed tax reform that would benefit corporations and further disadvantage the workers and the poor pic.twitter.com/ECw6sJIpSo
According to Defense Minister Diego Molano "the violent events in Cali were premeditated, planned and sponsored by criminal organizations. We are taking more men and women from the police and the army to guarantee the defense and security of citizens."
The protesters were demanding the dismissal of the Sustainable Solidarity Bill (Tax-reform Bill), which aims to increase the tax burden on the country's middle and working class.
The most contested part of the bill is the introduction next year of taxes to low-income workers earning over 2.4 million Colombian pesos (some 630 dollars). The minimum salary in Colombia equals some 248 dollars.
Right-wing former President Alvaro Uribe called yesterday's protests "acts of terrorist vandalism" and called the army right to shoot on demonstrators.