BOGOTA (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched on Monday against economic and social reforms proposed by Colombian leftist President Gustavo Petro – which he says will fight inequality – just 50 days after he took office.
Petro, 62, has promised to seek “total peace” through deals with rebel groups and crime gangs and asked lawmakers to approve a tax reform which would raise an initial $5.6 billion for social programs next year.
The reform would raise taxes on those earning more than $2,259 per month, about 10 times the minimum wage, and eliminate exemptions.
Petro has constructed a majority in congress through alliances with a range of parties. Right-wing party the Democratic Center, headed by former President Alvaro Uribe, has led much of the opposition to his proposals.
Some 5,000 people, many waving signs with slogans like “no to the tax reform”, marched in Bogota, according to the mayor’s office.
Some marchers compared Petro’s governance so far to authoritarianism and said objections to his administration would mount.
“Mr. Petro you are wrong in your way of governing,” said information technology worker James Duque.
Petro has also proposed changes to healthcare, a land reform which would sell properties to poor farmers at below-market rates and reforms to voting.
“It’s hurting my pension, it’s hurting my healthcare, it’s hurting private property, we need to respect families,” said protester Francisco Arias in Bogota’s central Plaza Bolivar.
Peaceful marches also took place in Medellin, Cali, Armenia and Villavicencio.
Petro said in a tweet he respected protesters’ right to express themselves but that his government also had a right to combat misinformation.
(Reporting by Herbert Villarraga; Writing by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Marguerita Choy)