Venezuelans and Colombians in NYC Unite against Maduro

The protesters denounced the prison sentence given to Venezuelan opposition member Leopoldo López and the deportation of Colombians. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The protesters denounced the prison sentence given to Venezuelan opposition member Leopoldo López and the deportation of Colombians. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Colombian and Venezuelan immigrants from the tri-state area gathered in New York to repudiate the 14-year prison sentence imposed on Venezuelan opposition member Leopoldo López and the deportation of more than 1,000 Colombians from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

On Saturday, a hundred demonstrators protested in front of the Consulate General of Venezuela to condemn the “unfair trial” held against López, jailed by Nicolás Maduro’s government. The 44-year-old politician, one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, was found guilty of instigation of delinquency, public intimidation, arson of a public building, and damage to public property during the protests held in Caracas last year.

“This is an outrage,” said Venezuelan Yolanda Naranjo, 57, who lives in Bogota, New Jersey. “Maduro is soiling the dream of the Bolivarian Republic with his authoritarianism.”

A picture of the late “eternal leader” of the United Socialist Party, Hugo Chávez, posted on the large windows of the Venezuelan consulate seemed at odds with the energetic demonstration.

“This disastrous regime that Chávez started must come to an end,” said Ligia Jaime, who yelled out slogans while wrapped in a Venezuelan flag. “Democracy in my country will only shine again when Maduro steps down.”

The protesters called López’s trial “unfounded,” adding that it turns the Maduro government into a “de facto dictatorship.”

“It is shameful to see other Latin American countries stay silent in the face of this atrocity,” said Caracas-born Julián Mora. The group marched to the United Nations headquarters to demand a humane and dignified treatment for López, founder of the Voluntad Popular (“People’s Will”) party.

Clashes involving students and opposition members against security forces and pro-Chávez riot squads had left 44 dead and hundreds injured.

International critics pounded Maduro’s government after the opposition leader’s sentence. López, who had already been in jail for 19 months, claimed to have been mistreated and held a hunger strike.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry questioned the way the Venezuelan judicial system is being used to suppress opposition.

Demanding solutions to the immigration crisis

After singing the national anthems of Colombia and Venezuela, the demonstrators raised their voices for “a humane solution for the sister nations,” referring to the deportation of more than a thousand Colombians from the Bolivarian Republic.

“Maduro does not respect pregnant women, children or the elderly. He is expelling our Colombian brothers and sisters in the most despicable manner,” said José Jaramillo, 36, a resident of Queens.

In August, diplomatic relations between the two South American countries became tense when Maduro temporarily closed their shared border saying that his country has “reached its limit” regarding Colombian immigration. To this, Colombian President José Manuel Santos, responded that Venezuelans would always be welcome in his country.

“Our people make Venezuela better with their hard work. Our families are not criminals,” said Guillermo Montiel, born in Bogotá.

Figures divulged by the Colombian government state that, this year, 315,000 Colombians traveled to Venezuela (70 percent of them as tourists) and that nearly 8,000 of them stayed. The Venezuelan government says that 121,834 Colombians have entered their territory this year.

“This humanitarian and immigration crisis must be solved immediately,” said Colombian Noelia Narváez. “The UN must intervene now.”

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