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Colombians In Connecticut React To Deadly Protests In Their Native Country

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Brenda Leon
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A small group of Colombians living in Connecticut gathered in front of Hartford's City Hall on Thursday to denounce the violent response by Colombia's security forces against demonstrators.

With signs and chants of support, a small group of Colombians living in Connecticut gathered in front of Hartford’s City Hall on Thursday to denounce the violent response by Colombia’s security forces against demonstrators.

Hartford resident Alina Zúñiga, who moved to Connecticut from Cali, Colombia, 30 years ago, organized the rally. She said ongoing corruption and abuse have been a decadeslong reality for the people in her native country. Zúñiga said young adults are responding on the streets, and she wanted to show her support.

“Systematically, social, human and environmental leaders are being killed, and the people are tired,” she said in Spanish.

A now-withdrawn tax-reform measure sparked the latest protests, which have been met with violent repression. Amnesty International has reported dozens of deaths and hundreds injured.

Under the proposed measures, Zúñiga said, people who don’t have enough to pay for basic needs would have seen tax increases in basic utilities like water and electricity.

Miguel Angel Chilito, 23, says he left his country due to a lack of economic opportunities and came to Connecticut six years ago.

“In Colombia opportunities are very limited,” said Chilito, holding a sign that read “S.O.S Colombia. The low salaries are not enough to make it by a month.”

Chilito, who lives in New Britain, says he’s been following the unrest via social media videos that have been sent to him by his peers back home. They show Colombia’s National Police opening fire and beating demonstrators.

Colombians in Connecticut say they will continue to rally to raise awareness of the unrest in their country.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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