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Colombian unions to hold strike against tax hikes at end of April

BOGOTA, April 6 (Reuters) - Some of Colombia’s biggest unions will hold a strike on April 28 to take to the streets and protest the economic and social policies of President Ivan Duque, chiefly a fiscal reform that looks to raise taxes, including on certain foods, a union official said on Tuesday.

It will represent the first strike of 2021 against Duque’s government, which weathered strikes and protests in 2019, although demonstrations dropped off in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a decision we made in the national strike committee. We will go on strike on April 28 against Duque’s new package and the tax reform, as well as labor and pension reforms,” Diogenes Orjuela, president of the Central Union of Workers (CUT), told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The government is preparing to present its proposed tax reform to congress, with which it hopes to collect 25.4 trillion pesos ($6.97 billion dollars), significantly more than earlier announced.

The reform is needed to increase Colombia’s tax income and maintain welfare programs, as well as reduce debt and stabilize the country’s fiscal accounts amid an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Duque said previously.

The tax reform is also considered by some analysts to be crucial in maintaining Colombia’s investment grade.

Indigenous communities, farmers, and student groups will join the strike, Orjuela said, adding that participants will also take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Protesters will also march to reject measures that would increase the retirement age and make it easier to hire and fire workers, though the government has not yet presented either reform to congress.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin