By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Venezuelan community rallied on Independence Mall on Sunday to call attention to growing unrest in Caracas and the death of three student protestors there.
More than 100 Venezuelan-Americans from the area stood in freezing temperatures near the Liberty Bell with a simple message…
“We’re asking for people to know that in Venezuela, human rights are being violated every single day,” said Emilio Buitrago.
Buitrago has lived in Philadelphia for 17 years, but he remains a staunch critic of the government in his homeland of Venezuela, which he says has cracked down on demonstrations and censored news coverage — even blocking Twitter images — since three students were killed after a march last week.
“Everybody needs to know what is going on in Venezuela,” said Buitrago. “They have to tell the Venezuelan government they have to stop the killing and the persecution of Venezuelans.”
They hoped a rally of their own on the Mall would inspire popular pressure for an official U.S. protest.
“This place has a very significant symbology for democracy around the world,” said Buitrago, “not only because of the Liberty Bell, but also because we can see right there the first amendment of the Constitution that grants freedom of speech. And that’s what we’re here for. As Venezuelan-Americans, we want to use the symbology of this place to bring democracy back to Venezuela.”
The protests began over the country’s escalating inflation and crime and a shortage of basic goods.