What's President Obama got to do with the bloody protests in Venezuela?: Rally set for White House

More than 500 expected to demonstrate in Washington urging President to step into South American country's crisis

Barack Obama’s eyes are set on Ukraine and Russia, but there are foreign affairs matters closer to home that should remain a key focus.

More than 500 people are expected to rally outside the White House today urging him and his Government to lend his support and hear the call of freedom and respect for human rights in Venezuela on behalf of millions in the South American country who claim they are not being heard.

It has been nearly a year since Nicolás Maduro became president following the death of Hugo Chávez, but things have not gone smoothly. Maduro is seen by many Venezuelans as a puppet for the Castro brothers in Cuba, who are given around 80,000 barrels of oil a day for free. His tactics to calm the public, who have hit the streets in protests against scarcity and rampant crime, have seen him advance the date of the Christmas celebration in 2013, which many saw as an attempt to get him votes in the municipal elections on 8 December. Earlier this week, he declared an early start to the now week-long Carnival public holiday in effort to end the unrest.

However, in the eyes of many Venezuelans and natives living in the US, the violence has run from high to rampant in the past year. By the end of 2013 the rate of violent deaths was 79 per 100,000 population, representing 12 per cent of mortality in the country. Many in Venezuela feel unsafe and will not leave their homes after sunset. The situation is deteriorating with a crumbling economic crisis, shortages of food, medicines and other primary needs items.

In a speech earlier this week, Venezuela's Education Minister, Hector Rodríguez, said the Government did not want to bring people out of poverty because they could become middle class political opponents of the current regime. He said: “Not that we are going to get people out of poverty and bring them into the middle class, so that later they aspire to become ‘escuálidos’ [a popular Chavista term for political opponents].” Genesis Carmona taken to hospital on a motorcycle after being shot

At least 16 people have been killed since 12 February during peaceful protests and 33 reported violations against human rights. This has led to the Venezuelan community in America feeling scared for the future of its country, especially after hearing Maduro blaming the violence on protesters. Among those killed include Venezuelan beauty queen Genesis Carmona (above) who was shot in the head when she attended her first protest on 18 February.

Despite poor relations between Venezuela and the United States (three US diplomats were expelled last month), the US-based Venezuelans are urging Obama for help and claim he could hold the key. This morning they are rallying on the side of the White House sidewalk in desperation for this aid.

Eugenia González, who has helped co-ordinate today’s demonstration, said: “We’re going because we can. We have the right to have an opinion and voice it without being detained or shot for it. Our families, our children at home are being stripped from basic human rights from freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to not being tortured, arbitrarily arrested without due process. We’ll be there because we can be. They cannot.”

US-based Venezuelans have seen their anger increase due to the media censorship in their homeland, leading the opposition to resort to social media outlets such as Twitter, Youtube, and WhatsApp to post their evidential photos and videos to keep each other informed. This has included allegations of rampant attacks by government officials and armed collectives in residential areas, and tweeted pictures of missiles transiting streets.

Táchira-born Walter Herrera said: “We seek to reach out to international organisations that can intervene and impose sanctions on those who indignantly violate the human rights of the Venezuelan citizens.”

All eyes might be sighting west, but Venezuelans believe one eye should be on them and hope Obama can assist in restoring civil liberty in their country once again.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam