(Photo: NYU Local Blog/Maryna Prykhodko)
Venezuelans living the United States have come together to support the student-led opposition in Caracas and other cities, calling on the government of President Nicolas Maduro to respect their right to peacefully protest.
Hundreds have rallied in places like Times Square, Washington, D.C., Boston, Miami and Los Angeles to be the voices of those in their country that are fighting against government corruption, poverty and widespread violence.
"Our message is to make our American neighbors aware of the cry we are going through. We're fighting for freedom and democracy," said Henry Moreno, a Los Angeles resident involved in area protests, to The Christian Post. "This is a socialist government that has sided with Cuba and has given all of its resources away. Currently, there is no inventory of food or security in Venezuela."
Moreno will be a part of two demonstrations in downtown Los Angeles in the upcoming days. One will be outside the Disney Concert Hall focused on Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan orchestra conductor who led a concert attended by Maduro last week. Their intent is to make concert hall directors aware of Dudamel's support of the government, explained Moreno.
The other protest, taking place near UCLA is one of over 130 marches happening later this week throughout domestic and international cities, organized by SOS Venezuela.
Earlier this week, nearly 1,000 people gathered in New York City waving Venezuelan flags while they chanted against Maduro's government. Protestors also took to the streets of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and are expected to rally again over the weekend.
Venezuelan Americans living in smaller towns like Huntsville, Ala., have also joined together to fight for peace and democracy on behalf of their families.
Currently, Venezuela is bracing for another wave of confrontations against Maduro after Leopoldo Lopez, a former mayor and opposition leader turned himself into authorities Tuesday.
The government issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting violence following a wave of protests. Maduro also accuses Lopez of attempting to form a coup against his government.
"Someone is responsible for every violent act that happens in this country. One of them is in jail," Maduro said in an address on national television, reports BBC. "The others will get there one by one, in the same way, to the same cell. I have no doubt of that."
Furthermore, Maduro alleges that Lopez is a "murderer" who is being paid by the CIA to overthrow his government.
During a leadership summit in Mexico on Wednesday, President Barack Obama responded by saying that instead of "making up false accusations" against U.S. diplomats, the Venezuelan government should focus on the "legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan government," reported Reuters.
Maduro won re-election to the presidency in 2013 after the death of leader Hugo Chavez, whose state control of the economy submerged the country into a deep economic crisis.
The nationwide protests broke out on Feb. 12 when thousands of students, committed to non-violence, took to the streets to protest Maduro's authoritarian regime. In response, the Venezuelan police, National Guard, and pro-government civilian armed groups interfered in the gatherings by using tear-gas and rubber bullets. Since then, the death toll has risen to six while over 100 have been injured.
The Venezuelan government has also responded by censoring the media, and blocking images and news on social media outlets.
For a list of non-violent protests organized by SOS Venezuela in U.S. cities, click here.