Colombian President Ivan Duque insisted a reform is still necessary to ensure fiscal stability, and he said on Sunday that he would withdraw a proposed tax reform after sometimes violent protests and widespread lawmaker opposition.
Duque said on Friday the law would be revised to remove some of its most controversial points – including the leveling of sales tax on utilities and some food – but the government had previously insisted it could not be withdrawn.
Protests against the reform have led to multiple deaths around the country since they began on Wednesday.
“I am asking Congress to withdraw the law proposed by the finance ministry and urgently process a new law that is the fruit of consensus, in order to avoid financial uncertainty,” Duque said in a video.
Political parties, local officials, business leaders and civil society have contributed valuable ideas over the last several days, he said.
There is consensus on the need for temporary taxes on businesses and dividends, an increase in income tax for the wealthiest and deepened state austerity measures, Duque said.
“It is a moment for all of us to work together without malice,” he said.
Lawmakers, unions and other groups hailed the announcement as a victory. Celebratory cacerolazos, a traditional protest where people beat pots and pans, could be heard in some neighborhoods.
“It is the youth, social organizations and mobilized citizens who have seen deaths and defeated the government,” leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda said on Twitter. “May the government not present the same reform with make-up. The citizens won’t accept tricks.”
There is not yet a definite national count of deaths connected to protests, amid incidents of looting, destruction of public transport and road blockades in several cities.
Human rights groups have alleged police abuses – especially in Cali – and said deaths number more than 20.
Duque said late on Saturday cities at high risk for disturbances would get military assistance, an offer rejected by Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez.