Exiles demand US sanction Venezuela


SILENCE: Protesters from across the U.S. are arriving Friday in Washington, D.C., demanding the U.S. government impose sanctions on Venezuela. In the South American country, meanwhile, a man wears a narrow strip in the colors of Venezuela’s flag over his mouth Thursday in protest of officials breaking up camps maintained by student protesters in Caracas.

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — Venezuelans living in exile in the U.S. are converging on Washington, D.C., demanding the federal government enact sanctions against their homeland.

The “Trip for Freedom” convoy, an event organized by Independent Venezuelan-American Citizens, on Thursday departed Miami and headed to the U.S. capital. Buses also departed from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and 19 other states bringing protesters to Capitol Hill.

The activists, who plan to arrive in the nation’s capital on Friday, will urge the House and Senate to go forward with their proposed sanctions outlined in a bill drafted by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R-Fla., which proposes targeted sanctions on individuals carrying out or ordering human-rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela. The House was expected to debate the bill on Friday.

Organizers say protesters will gather outside the White House before heading to the offices of the Organization of American States, an organization that aims to promote cooperation and solidarity between the independent countries of America. Thus far, OAS has stayed on the sidelines as Venezuela falls into chaos.

“Venezuela hurts me,” said Freedy Moros of IVAC while riding in one of the buses heading to the Capitol. “We cannot stop (our support) because in Venezuela the protests have not stopped.

SANCTIONS, NOW: Some 1,000 protesters are arriving Friday in Washington, D.C., where they will ask the U.S. government to support sanctions against Venezuela.

“I don’t know if (President Obama) doesn’t understand (what is happening in Venezuela) or is waiting for something to happen to make a decision,” said Maria Teresa Guma, an activist with IVAC.

“What we want is that he clearly understands that he cannot delay anymore,” she said.

On Thursday Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that members of the opposition coalition had requested the White House not to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials, yet.

When asked by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., which members of the opposition were asking for the delay, Jacobson could not name one.

Protests in the South American country began in February and show no signs of retreating. The violence has escalated, hundreds of arrests have been reported and at least 40 people have been killed, according to official figures.

At the same time, attempts to find consensus between the Venezuelan government and the opposition has failed and led to hyper inflation and food and medicine shortages.

The organization Human Rights Watch has accused the Venezuelan government of illegally arresting people and abusing protesters.

Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter.