Thousands of Colombians protest tax proposals

Thousands of Colombian protesters clashed with police across the country Wednesday over a proposal for new or expanded taxes.

Forty people were arrested for alleged vandalism, according to the government, and over 40 police officers were injured.

Protesters had answered the call from Colombia's biggest unions to hit the streets.

In Cali, indigenous protesters tried to bring down a statue of conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar and faced off with police in riot gear before being driven away by tear gas.

Right-wing President Ivan Duque's proposal would mean more taxes for individuals and businesses, an attempt to raise billions of dollars and, the government says, avoid a downgrade on its debt rating.

Diogenes Orjuela is a trade union leader who protested in the capital Bogota.

"This march is the biggest display of outrage against this government, against the tax reform, and against the labor and pension reform. The government has gone against the country and the country is responding in more than 500 cities.”

On Wednesday President Duque responded saying only peaceful demonstrations would be tolerated.

"Violence doesn't resolve any of the challenges that we have to face as a country. There are no stubborn positions here, violence cannot be a mechanism of expression.”

Wednesday's protests are the most recent against Duque’s policies, which began near the end of 2019.

Union leaders called for marches to continue on Thursday, and announced another for mid-May.