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Florida lawmakers show support for Venezuelan student protesters


Several members of the Florida Legislature and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera came together Wednesday to show their support for the student protesters in Venezuela.

The protests are being held in opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The students have vowed to continue demonstrating until the government puts an end to the sporadic food shortages, inflation and crime that have gripped the country.

To date, the repression of protests has left at least 20 people dead, according to published reports.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a resolution by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, "recognizing the people of Venezuela and their peaceful protest as they call for democratic change."

Flores called the measure "a small but important and powerful message that the state of Florida is taking this sersiously."

Rep. Jeanette Núñez, R-Miami, presented a similar tribute to the student protesters.

Adding their names to the tribute: Reps. Frank Artiles; R-Miami; Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala; Michael Bileca, R-Miami; José Félix Díaz, R-Miami; Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah; Erik Fresen, R-Miami; Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah; Doug Holder, R-Venice; Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud; Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes; Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota; Victor Torres, D-Orlando; and Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami.

Some of the lawmakers expressed their support for the Venezuelan students at a press conference Wednesday morning. They were joined by members of the Venezuelan Students Association at Florida State University, as well as several Venezuelan-American groups.

Lopez-Cantera also attended, and called for federal sanctions against Venezuela akin to the sanctions being considered for Russia. (The governor's office has been active on the issue. Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to President Barack Obama in February calling for sanctions against leadership of the Venezuelan regime.)

"We don't understand why in four months we haven't heard but one comment from the president on this issue, especially because there are so many Venezuelan-Americans in the United States of America and particularly here in Florida," he said.

Some Democratic lawmakers said they would have attended the news conference -- had they been invited.

"If the purpose was to support the Venezuelan community, I would have loved to have gone," said Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, adding that he hadn't been made aware of the event.

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, called the situation in Venezuela "very important to me and my community." But he wasn't told about the press conference either, he said.

Núñez later said the invitation had been extended to members who signed the tribute.

"Everyone had the opportunity to sign," she said. "Nobody was being excluded."