Rubio, Scott demand sanctions on Venezuelan government - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Rubio, Scott demand sanctions on Venezuelan government

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
Florida Gov. Rick Scott Florida Gov. Rick Scott

DORAL, Fla. (WSVN) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio met with members of South Florida's Venezuelan community in a show of support for those caught in the middle of all the turmoil in the Latin American country.

The political leaders gathered Friday at El Arepazo 2 in Doral, a restaurant that has become a town square for Venezuelans living in South Florida. They joined the growing chorus demanding action from the Obama administration.

"If the United States will not lead on the cause of human rights and freedom, no nation on Earth will," Rubio told the crowd of concerned citizens and reporters. The Republican senator urged the U.S. government to impose sanctions against Venezuelan officials following weeks of clashes with the opposition movement, which have resulted in more than a dozen deaths.

"Help us solve the problem in Venezuela," said Venezuelan expatriate Cristina Escontrela. "There's a lot of people dying each day, and we need help."

The opposition has found the support of Venezuelans living in South Florida, many of whom cheered Rubio, Scott and Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera as they voiced their opinions as to how the U.S. can take action.

"Freeze the assets and revoke the travel visas of the government officials in Venezuela," said Rubio as people cheered.

Scott also advised the U.S. government to deny entry to those Venezuelan officials. "Don't let anyone that's impacting these protesters, these peaceful protesters, from ever coming into our country," he said.

Earlier this week, a group of Venezuelan and Cuban students asked Rubio to intervene, calling for stricter measures, including oil sanctions. "The truth of the matter is, the Venezuelan oil industry is falling apart on its own because of the Venezuelan government," said Rubio.

Rubio, who supports the decades-long embargo with Cuba, said he's not ruling out that option for Venezuela. "If we don't get progress on this, that could be the next step in this process," he said.

Democrats have also called attention to the crisis. Fla. Sen. Bill Nelson and N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez are co-sponsoring Rubio's resolution, filed Thursday, asking for the sanctions.

Speaking at the University of Miami Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Venezuela is missing key characteristics of a democracy. "A democracy means a free press, protecting the rights of opponents, protecting a free economy, having an independent judiciary, so other than elections, there are not very many characteristics of a real democracy right now in Venezuela," she said.

Some, like Ana Maria Cera, have already fled Venezuela. The Ceras obtained a special athlete visa given to their oldest daughter, a gymnast. They have been living in a Miami shelter for a week.

Advocates are now asking for federal aid. "We would like the president to approve also emergency funds to those Venezuelan people who are arriving and have no shelter," said immigrant advocate Carmen Gimenez.

As the crisis continues to unfold, established expatriates in South Florida implored the Obama administration to take action. "We are your people, so we're asking you to help us," said U.S. resident Carolina Llamozas.

An interfaith prayer service was held at el Arepazo 2 in Doral, Friday evening.

You can drop off supplies for those in Venezuela at:

El Arepazo 2
3900 NW 79 Ave.
Doral

Casabe 305 Bistro
1762 Coral Way
Miami

Don Criollito
12039 SW 132 Ct.
Miami

El Arepazo
4446 Weston Rd.
Weston

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