TAMPA — Protestors took to the streets in Tampa today to call for U.S. sanctions against the Venezuelan government, which they blame for violent demonstrations that swept the South American country this week.
Organizers of the demonstration, which took place at noon in front of the WTVT, Fox-13 television station on Kennedy Boulevard, said they represented an group called MOVE, an acronym that in English stands for the Organized Movement for Venezuelan People Abroad.
Norma Reno, a spokeswoman for the movement, said the leftist government in Venezuela is controlled by Fidel and Raul Castro, Cuba’s communist leaders. She blamed Venezuela’s socialist policies for a worsening economic crisis that has resulted in runaway inflation and shortages of household staples such as milk, coffee and corn meal.
“We want our sovereignty back,” Reno said. “Cuba has been in Venezuela for 15 years; Venezuela is like a colony of Cuba.”
Demonstrations this week against the government of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro left three people dead and more than 60 injured. Opponents of Maduro blamed the government for precipitating the violence by allowing paramilitary groups to attack protestors.
“When these students are protesting peacefully, these paramilitary groups come and shoot them; a few got killed in the last few days,” said Federico Alves, a Venezuelan who works at a Tampa technology firm. “The government accepted responsibility and said those paramilitary groups are part of the revolution, heros,” Alves said.
The MOVE leaders said they want the United States to impose economic sanctions against Venezuela as long as Maduro’s government stands. They also support the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, a controversial subject in Tampa where some prominent Latin residents have called for ending the embargo.
“We demand that President Barack Obama take a stand on this issue by breaking any relations with the Venezuelan government and impose economic sanctions on the regime because they are massacring our people,” Alves said.
Protestors at today’s event carried signs and the Venezuelan flag. Some wore yellow T-shirts that said, “Venezuela Libre,” or Free Venezuela.
Asked why the group’s members chose to protest in front of the television studios, Reno said they wanted more coverage of the Venezuelan unrest on North American stations.
“If we just do it with the Spanish TV stations nobody is going to know,” Reno said. “We want everybody to know that having the Castros in a country only brings hunger and misery.”