BOGOTA (Reuters) -Thousands of protesters have demonstrated in Colombia to urge its congress to approve union-backed social and economic policies supporters say will benefit the most vulnerable.
Unions, student organizations and other groups held some six weeks of marches between the end of April and June to reject a subsequently-withdrawn tax reform and other bills they said would perpetuate deep inequality. Road blockades associated with the protests halted exports and led to shortages.
At times, the protests spiraled into violence, and at least 24 people were killed. Human rights groups say the toll was higher and have accused the police of heavy-handed tactics.
A new watered-down $3.9 billion version of the tax reform, which was approved by congressional economic committees on Wednesday, was the focus of ire for many marchers on Thursday. The bill would raise corporate taxes and enshrine some spending cuts.
The unions and others who organized the protests are pushing for an alternative package of reforms that include a monthly basic income of $235 for 7.5 million poor families for 13 months, free university education, and financial aid for small businesses. The bills appear to have little support among lawmakers.
The strike committee - which had temporarily suspended marches in June - has also called off its participation in talks with the government, which sought to end protests.