Colombian unions demonstrate in support of bills to help the working class and the poor

Demonstrators protest a recently approved tax reform in Bogota, Colombia, September 28, 2021. REUTERS / Nathalia Angarita

BOGOTA, Sept. 28 (Reuters) – Thousands of Colombian protesters returned to the streets of major cities on Tuesday to demand once again Congress approve union-backed social policies in favor of the poorest.

Protesters – whose numbers have dropped significantly from their peak earlier this year – also demonstrated against a nearly $ 4 billion tax reform approved this month by Congress and enacted. The unions say it is not doing enough for the working class.

The reform is supposed to benefit 29 million people through emergency basic income payments to 4 million poor families, temporarily free tuition at public universities and technical schools for young people from poor families and medium and wage subsidies for companies that hire women and young people.

“The government is helping families a little, it is not enough help,” Francisco Maltes, head of the Central Workers’ Union (CUT), told Reuters.

Lawmakers are expected to approve a set of union-backed laws that “will fight hunger and inequality,” he said.

These proposals would give a basic income of about $ 236 per month to 7.5 million families for 13 months, as well as free university for students and help for small businesses. Bills have languished since Congress began its current session two months ago.

Large demonstrations between April and June led to the withdrawal of a first version of the tax reform and resulted in the resignation of the Minister of Finance.

At least 29 people have been killed in the protests – with many deaths blamed on excessive use of force by police – while roadblocks have resulted in shortages across the country. Read more

A separate group of marchers, mostly women, demonstrated to mark International Safe Abortion Day.

Although Colombia allows abortion in cases of threat to a woman’s health, rape and fatal fetal malformation, activists say the procedure is difficult to perform, especially for rural women.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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