Wasserman Schultz stands with Venezuelan activists to denounce Maduro regime as humanitarian crisis grows
By Brian Ballou
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stood along Venezuelan activists Monday morning to denounce the "brutal" government led by President Nicholas Maduro and bring more attention to an escalating humanitarian crisis in the South American country.
"Just last week mothers were fleeing across the border with Colombians because they could not feed their families; people need basic goods services and medical supplies that Maduro's government is incapable of providing them and refuses to reform the environment that has created this chaos," Wasserman Schultz said, standing behind a lectern at El Arepazo 2 Restaurant in Weston.
Wasserman Schultz and several people who fled Venezuela after being labeled agitators by the Maduro regime painted a grim picture of torture, oppression and starvation, where peaceful protesters are routinely killed, food supplies are non-existent, and basic human rights are being stomped out at the whim of the government.
"President Maduro is only interested in himself and his cronies," said Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Wasserman Schultz is in a primary battle with Tim Canova in the 23rd Congressional District. The district includes Weston, which at 10 percent has the highest Venezuelan population of any city in the U.S.
Often referred to as Westonzuela, the city is dotted with Venezuelan restaurants and other businesses that cater to Venezuelans.
Wasserman Schutlz pledged to continue sanctions against high-ranking Venezuelan officials that limit their activities and international travel.
She also said she would work to pass a bill she co-authored for temporary protective status for Venezuelans living in the U.S., which would allow them to extend their visas and prevent them from being forced to return home and possibly face jail or even death.
Josmir Gutierrez, a 25-year-old woman who fled Venezuela two years ago with her mother and brother, said she was an activist who was singled out by the government as a conspirator.
"I'm grateful for the initiative by the congresswoman," Gutierrez said. "There is some hope for those who are still in Venezuela. Women are having to bury their children because of lack of food and health care."
She said over 120 students are jailed for peaceful protests and dozens others were recently murdered because they spoke out for democracy.
Jerico Baute, 22, said he fled his homeland a year ago because he was jailed and tortured for protesting.
"People are dying for speaking out against the government. Democracy does not exist in Venezuela, and we need to do everything we can to change that, to help our brothers and sisters," he said.