BOGOTA (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched on Monday against economic and social reforms proposed by leftist Colombian President Gustavo Petro – which he says will fight inequality – just 50 days after taking office.
Petro, 62, promised to pursue a “comprehensive peace” through deals with rebel groups and crime syndicates and asked lawmakers to approve a tax reform that would raise an initial $5.6 billion for social programs next year.
The reform would raise taxes for those earning more than $2,259 a month, about 10 times minimum wage, and eliminate exemptions.
Petro secured a majority in Congress through his alliances with a range of parties. The right-wing Democratic Center Party, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, led much of the opposition to his proposals.
The mayor’s office stated that about 5,000 people, many of whom waved placards with slogans such as “No to tax reform,” marched in Bogota.
Some protesters have compared Petro’s rule so far to authoritarianism and said objections to his administration would escalate.
“Mr Petro, you are wrong in your judgment,” said IT worker James Duque.
Petro also proposed changes to health care, agrarian reform that would sell real estate to poor farmers at below-market rates and voting reforms.
“It hurts my pension, it hurts my health, it hurts private property, and we need to respect families,” protester Francisco Arias said in the central Bogota’s Plaza Bolivar.
Peace rallies were also held in Medellin, Cali, Armenia and Villavicencio.
Petro said in a tweet that he respects the protesters’ right to express their views, but that his government also has the right to combat misinformation.