Jacksonville's Venezuelan community cries out for help

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Unnerving violence in South America felt right here on the First Coast. Members of Jacksonville's Venezuelan community rallied near the Town Center Tuesday night, afraid for their loved ones, as deadly protests continue after several days of fighting in the streets of Caracas.

More than 100 people lined the sidewalk, holding hands creating a human chain. Many had signs in hand, pleading for the U.S. to get involved and stop the deadly violence in Venezuela.

"I cannot communicate with them, there is no communication!" said Maria Kellerman. "Internet is shut down, newscasts have been shut down."

Kellerman who gathered with protesters to bring awareness to the violence spilled into the streets of Caracas, said she's afraid. Unable to recently connect with her family back home, she worries about their survival. Kellerman said many people have been unable to leave their homes, and food supplies are running low.

"It's very dangerous to go outside there are riots everywhere in Venezuela," said Kellerman.

Tuesday, the man the Venezuelan government blames for the deadly riots turned himself in. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, in front of some 5,000 supporters gathered in Venezuela's capital, told them he hoped his detention will open their eyes to the government's increasingly authoritarian methods. President Nicolas Maduro accuses Lopez of leading a fascist plot to overthrow him.

"We are really concerned about him turning himself in but we support his decision," said Kellerman.

At the Town Center in Jacksonville, members of the Venezuelan community cried out for help.

"We had to leave, you can't rally live there," said Angelica Mijares. "All of the families, people right now are being killed. Students are being killed. Everybody that's against the regime is being killed."

People driving by honked their horns in support, as flags and signs were waved in desperation.

"Please help us," said Kellerman. "Please U.S. help us!"

There's an online petition currently on whitehouse.gov, with nearly 5,000 signatures.

It asks for U.S. intervention in Venezuela. Supporters have started a movement online using the #SOSVenezuela.


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