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Angry protesters, riot police clash in Belize

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BELMOPAN, Belize – Unrest concerning the Belizian government’s new taxes, which began on January 20, continued as people burned government offices and union workers went on strike, closing ports and shutting down water services.{{more}}

The unrest has been a reaction to the new budget for 2005-6, passed on January 13, that introduced big tax raises.

The largest individual rise was a new 100 per cent sales tax on rum. The unusual introduction of the new budget two months before the end of the financial year has been justified by the government as being required to increase funding for education services. Opposition campaigners have claimed that the government is trying to unfairly collect two months of additional taxes.

During the afternoon, protesters campaigned outside the Belizian National Assembly, with rocks being thrown at riot police. Later, following the expiration of the protest permit, protesters and police exchanged cherry bombs and tear gas.

The Belize Defence Force was called in to disperse the crowd, after which sporadic gunfire was heard until the crowd later dispersed.

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