Members of the local Venezuelan community gathered at Sister Cities Park on a crispy-cold Tuesday night to honor fallen leaders opposed to the repressive government of President Nicolás Maduro.
About 30 people, holding Venezuelan flags and electronic candles, met across from the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on the anniversary of the slaying of rebel leader Óscar Pérez and six others, who were killed during a nine-hour siege last year in Caracas.
“This moment is appropriate to also recognize the political prisoners in Venezuela, and we as Casa de Venezuela totally disavow his regime,” said José Benavides, vice president of Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia, addressing the crowd in Spanish.
The crowd responded with chants of “Liberty for Venezuela” and other affirmations.
The event was organized by Casa de Venezuela Philadelphia, a nonprofit that supports about 11,000 Venezuelans who live in the region, to also mark the Jan. 10 installation of Maduro to his second six-year term as president.
Maduro’s reelection in May 2018 is widely regarded as fraudulent.
The Lima Group, comprised of 12 Latin American nations to address the crisis in Venezuela, issued a statement last Friday saying that the 2018 election didn’t “meet the international standards.”
And the Organization of American States has said it won’t recognize Maduro’s second term as legitimate.
Juan Guaidó, president of the Venezuela’s National Assembly, has called for mass protests on Jan. 23 in his country and around the world to call attention to what they have called a “kidnapped presidency.”
Julio Rivas, 31, who was a Venezuelan legislator representing the state of Carabobo until September 2017, when he fled to escape political persecution, attended the vigil. Rivas, who now lives in Northeast Philadelphia, said support from the United States is key to turning things around in Venezuela.
Since Maduro took over the presidency from Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has seen its economy crater and many of its residents flee.