Vigil for Venezuela

A vigil for Venezuela was held in the Markee Pioneer Student Center at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville on March 4.

Three UW-Platteville students from Venezuela, senior mechanical engineering major Jorge Finol, senior psychology major Laura Firgau and sophomore theater major Viviana Pereyra, shared their personal experiences about life in Venezuela.

Since 1835, Venezuela and the United States have maintained diplomatic relations.

Venezuela is a prominent oil producer with the world’s largest oil reserve, and the country provides goods, such as oil, to the United States.

However, the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated due to  Venezuela’s government.

“The type of government that we’ve [Venezuela] had lately is more like a regime. They want to control everything,” Finol said. “We tried to change that by expressing ourselves on the street, which, by the Constitution of Venezuela, we have that right, but the government reacted by sending in the National Guard and police to repress these people, especially students.”

Furthermore, the safety of family and friends poses immense concerns for various students.

It is common for the citizens of Venezuela to receive threatening phone calls and money requests from prisoners in jail.

The Venezuelan government generally does not enhance the level of protection for its citizens, especially regarding these threats.

“A month ago, my best friend’s mom got a call from one of the prisoners,” Pereyra said. “He told her that if she didn’t cooperate with his demands, then her children would get killed. The response from the police was, ‘Be smart and don’t expose yourself.’”

Aside from the fear of being harmed by the government and other civilians, many Venezuelans also worry about death due to a lack of nutrition and healthcare.

Venezuela lacks many products that are vital for human beings to consume.

It is nearly impossible to find flour, rice, chicken, toilet paper, medicine and many other necessities.

The students who spoke at the vigil for Venezuela are passionate about changing the current form of government in Venezuela and enhancing the safety of their friends and family.

“I care because I worry that I’ll get a call saying someone I know is dead. I care because, two days ago, my mom got robbed on her way to a peaceful protest,” Firgau said. “My friends had to change classrooms for streets. I care for the future generations and because I’m Venezuelan, I’m your voice away from home.”

UW-Platteville fraturnity Sigma Phi Epsilon hosted the vigil.

After receiving an email from the Lawrence Technological University chapter of SigEp in Southfield, Mich., President Nathaniel Knautz decided to act.

The email asked them to help spread the word about Venezuela because the chapter consisted of a brother who had been affected by some of the issues.

Knautz ultimately organized the vigil in less than a week.

“While we may be a small group of students from Wisconsin, we recognize the impact our voice can have,” Knautz said.

“The brothers of SigEp feel it is necessary for us to use our voice to support those who cannot, especially since many of those affected are fellow students. Everyone seeking to further their knowledge should have the ability to do so in a safe environment without the fear of something happening to them.”