HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – On the streets of Venezuela, protestors are demanding change, rallying against soaring inflation, food shortages and dwindling rights.

Venezuelans who now call South Florida home have also protested in recent weeks as they look to the lawmakers in Washington for help.

“The United States has always stood as a moral leader against human rights violations and does so today,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia met with local Venezuelans on Monday to discuss ways that the U.S. can help.

“We don’t’ have a government, we have a regime of thugs, they’re stealing our money,” said Rhona Otterlina.

Otterlina, who now lives in South Florida, wants the U.S. to hit Venezuela’s leadership where it hurts – petroleum sales.

“We would like the oil flow from Venezuela to America to stop because the money from America to Venezuela is being used to kill us and repress us,” said Otterlina.

During the forum, Wasserman Schultz cautioned against broad sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

“We’re hearing from the opposition that you could, potentially with sanctions, make things much worse for the people on the ground and also that it gives Maduro, especially in the region, more credibility with his game that he’s trying to make that the United States is somehow behind this,” said Wasserman Schultz.

There seems to be some consensus building around a plan endorsed by some congressional Republicans in South Florida. It calls for revoking visas and freezing U.S. bank accounts of specific Maduro allies.

“These are specific sanctions on people who have acted against civil order, who’ve acted in ways that violate human decency and norms,” said Garcia.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is immigration. Officials said there needs to be a clear plan of what should happen to Venezuelans who are here and apply for asylum.


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