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'It hurts even more when you're away': Colombians in London show support for protesters in homeland

Many Colombians in London are standing in solidarity with the thousands of people who have been protesting against President Ivan Duque's conservative government. 

Rumored plans to raise the pension age and cut the minimum wage for youth have triggered unrest

Erika Martinez, who arrived to London from Colombia a little over a year ago, holds up a card explaining that corruption and economic reforms were what led to a national strike on Nov. 21 in Colombia (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Many Colombians in London are standing in solidarity with the thousands of people who have been protesting against President Ivan Duque's conservative government. 

"We just want to let them know that we would be on the streets with them if we were over there" said Santiago Trujillo, a Colombian who organized a gathering at Victoria Park on Saturday, where more than 50 people raised their flags and signs to raise awareness of the country's political, social and economic climate.

"It's just a matter of love to our country," he said. 

On Nov. 21, 250,000 protesters participated in a march that has led to almost two weeks of unrest.

The protests come as Latin Americans express their discontent with leaders all around, including those of Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador. 

In Colombia, the unrest has been due to multiple factors including escalating corruption in the country,  the murder of hundreds of human rights activists and rumours of a rise in the pension age. 

Santiago Trujillo organized the gathering in London as a way of demonstrating that Colombians in London stand in solidarity with those participating in protests. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

"It hurts to see the things that are happening and it hurts even more when you're away," said Trujillo. 

He says that regardless of the reasons why Colombians came to Canada, they can't negate the fact that they are originally from the South American country and have roots there.  

"People might say that this is totally useless, but for us it's important to raise our voices and to share a little of the love we have for our country." 

Liliana Caicedo, who has been in Canada for more than 15 years, also thought it was important to gather and explain to people what is happening in Colombia. 

"We're supporting our families and friends there because we are hoping that one day people over there have the same opportunities that we have here in Canada," she said. 

Caicedo says it's frustrating for her to know that public demonstrations against the government aren't being respected in her homeland. 

On Nov. 21, the day of the nation's biggest march in recent history, more than 100 protesters suffered minor injuries when they were met with tear gas. 

Four people were killed as a result of the riots, including 18-year-old Dilan Cruz who died of his injuries from a tear gas canister that was fired by riot police. 

Colombian youth say they are proud of the young people participating in the protests in their homeland. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

"Nobody deserves that kind of treatment and it's just sad to watch," 20-year-old Daniel Mendoza said. 

Student organizations have been at the forefront of these protests after a rumoured plan to cut the minimum wage for young people, something President Duque denies supporting. 

"Us students are forced to leave [Colombia] because we want to actually live and not just get by," said Julian Cardenas Parra, a 19-year-old in attendance of Saturday's gathering who came to Canada a little over a year ago. 

About the Author

Sofia Rodriguez

Reporter/Editor

Sofia Rodriguez is a reporter with CBC News in London. She is a graduate of Western University and Fanshawe College. You can email her at sofia.rodriguez@cbc.ca

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press