Saturday morning at Bayside in Miami wasn’t the typical shopping and dining experience. The wall surrounding the Torch of Friendship had a giant Venezuelan flag with signatures and wishes written on the fabric.
There was an open-mic protest, organized by local community members and activists. Cuban-Americans, Venezuelan-Americans, and Venezuelans all took turns sharing stories, opinions, and prayers.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s actions have led to turmoil in the nation, where civil rights have been violated and the risk of a coup is growing. In fact, Venezuelan troops say they quashed an attempted anti-antigovernment attack in a military base on Sunday.
Nick Scher, the event organizer, is a Cuban-American. He wishes a better fate for Venezuelans than the one his family endured during Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba decades ago.
“I’ve sat for countless hours with my friends just talking about the bad things in this world and about how people don’t do things, so it starts with us. We do it now, we make the difference, no matter how small the crowd, no matter how big the crowd,” said Scher after the event.
Scher doesn’t pretend to know what should be done to better the lives of Venezuelans, or even how to start, but he believes that real change can only begin when every community member participates in protest.
He contacted local community leaders to participate in the open-mic and share news of what’s to come next for South Florida’s relationship with Venezuela. Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, and Venezuelan opposition leader Lester Toledo were some of the afternoon’s speakers.
Keith Fernandez, Communications Director for Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, spoke extensively about continuing to enforce sanctions on Venezuela.
In July 2016, former President Barack Obama extended sanctions, first established in 2014, against human rights violations in Venezuela, where he included President Nicolas Maduro.
“I hope more names are added to the sanctions list and hopefully that will continue to hold these human rights violators accountable, but there is no question, we stand by the Venezuelan people. The Maduro regime is an illegal regime that is subverting the Venezuelan constitution,” said Fernandez.
The sanctions are to be placed on any persons aiding Maduro’s regime, including any businesses benefiting from the crisis.
“Speaking for Rick Scott, State of Florida, we are committed to ensuring that no businesses that support Venezuela, make money off of the suffering of Venezuela, will have any place here in the state of Florida,” said Cantera.
As news with Venezuela is developing and opposition tensions grow higher, the event organizers hope to create more open-mic style discussions in the coming weeks and months, giving the local community a chance to be heard.
This story has been corrected for a spelling error. We had originally spelled Nick Scher's name as Schure. We regret the error.