The UN rights office has condemned the “excessive use of force” by security agents in Colombia, after many deaths during days of protests.

The protests, which began last week, demanded the withdrawal of a tax reform proposed by President Ivan Duque’s government – he did so on Sunday, but the protests continued.

The UN rights office said on Tuesday: “In view of the extremely tense situation, with soldiers and police deployed to monitor the protest, we call for calm.”

“We remind state authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly” , said spokeswoman Maria Hurtado.

“Law enforcement officers should respect the principles of legality, precaution, necessity and proportionality when monitoring protests. Firearms may only be used as a last resort against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. “

Hurtado added that UN officials were trying to verify the death toll from Monday’s Cali incident.

Authorities arrested 431 people and the government deployed the army to the worst affected towns.

Some NGOs accused the police of shooting civilians.

The tax reform had been strongly criticized for having sanctioned the middle classes in times of economic crisis.

The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a way to finance public spending.

The objective was to generate 6.3 billion dollars between 2022 and 2031 to revive the fourth economy in Latin America.

Hit by coronavirus restrictions, Colombia’s economy shrank 6.8% in 2020, its worst performance in half a century.

Unemployment reached 16.8 percent in March, while 42.5 percent of the population of 50 million now live in poverty.

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