WESTON (CBSMiami) – Dozens of Venezuelans gathered in Weston Friday to lend their voices to the chorus calling for change in Venezuela.
Oscar Ganem said the stories of fear and anxiety from his family in Venezuela are almost too much to bear. Not only is there violence and a lack of freedoms, he said, but also a lack of basic necessities.
“You go to the supermarket, you don’t find sugar. You don’t find milk. You don’t find beef and the only reason is because the Communist government is stealing all the money from our country,” Ganem said.
“If I have to give my life to recover democracy, I’m ready for that.”
Venezuelans living in South Florida are angry at the scenes they see playing out in their homeland — protestors clashing with government forces. Reports indicate that at least half a dozen people have died. American diplomats have been expelled from the country and the opposition alleges that President Nicolas Maduro is responsible for a rise in crime, economic stagnation and a corrupt government.
“We need a change,” said Ramon Dereza. “It’s not a change of president. It’s a change of government style. This Communism, is not the way. This Socialism, is not the way.”
At a rally Friday outside Cafe Canela Restaurant in Weston, Reinaldo Marquez says he took part in demonstrations in Venezuela several years ago and has friends still fighting for change today.
“I know friends of mine who’ve been kidnapped,” he said. “I know friends of mine who have been disfigured in the face and are now in the hospital. And it’s really upsetting to see this because this is no longer a political issue. This is a violation of our human rights.”
Maduro, like former President Hugo Chavez before him, has blamed the United States for fomenting rebellion in Venezuela. American officials say that is far from the truth and that the problems in Venezuela are between the government and its’ people.
Weston is home to a large Venezuelan community and St. Katharine Drexel Church overflowed with hundreds of people Friday night at a special Mass and prayer gathering for Venezuela.
“We need to pray together and expect that somehow God can touch the heart of those in government,” said Orlando Sixto.
Protestors in Venezuela and in South Florida want to see freedoms emerge in their native country but they say the government has cracked down on communication and even revoked credentials of journalists from networks like CNN, because the government is apparently angry at the way the demonstrations have been covered. Florida Senator Marco Rubio criticized the move saying it might mean that Maduro is ready to step up violence against his citizens in the hopes that the story will not be told.
There is little those in Weston can do except show their support.
“Our family, we call them everyday just to verify they’re ok but we don’t imagine what it really feels like to be there,” said Mary, who grew up in Venezuela.
A Rally for Freedom in Venezuela will be held on Saturday in Doral at JC Bermudez Park at 1 pm.