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


International organizations as well as high-profile celebrities are calling attention to the situation in Colombia, where protests over a planned pandemic-related tax hike have left at least 19 dead and hundreds injured.

“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.”

“It’s unacceptable that a mother loses her only son because of brutality and that another 18 people’s lives were yanked away in a peaceful protest,” the pop star Shakira, who is also Colombian, posted.

The western city of Cali has become the protests’ epicenter where 11 of the 19 deaths occurred, though there have been protests around the country. Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo, its public ombudsman, stated that 89 people were missing following the protests, according to news reports.

The European Union warned about the use of excessive force by authorities at the protests, which were sparked by the tax hike that President Iván Duque insisted is necessary to fix the country’s economy. The Andean country’s economy fell by almost 7 percent last year because of the pandemic. Duque announced Sunday that he would withdraw the proposal and said he would seek a new one.

Image: (Luis Robayo / AFP - Getty Images)

Image: (Luis Robayo / AFP – Getty Images)

But the protests, which began last week, were also about anger over rising poverty, inequality and what advocacy groups call excessive force by the police.

More protests are planned and the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged for calm and warned of police shootings.

Duque has said his government will come up with another tax reform proposal and called for unity during his nightly television show.

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