Protests in Venezuela turned violent on Feb. 1 when police attacked students who had gathered to bring attention to security concerns on a university campus.
Rioting has gone on for more than two weeks and has spread across the country with protesters decrying government corruption and police hostility, as well as economic practices that have led to high inflation and shortages of food and other necessities.
Maria de Jesus Cordero is an associate professor of Spanish at Utah State University. She and fellow faculty member Marina Bernal, who is originally from Venezuela, hosted a forum Thursday to discuss the crisis.
“The reaction of the government to peaceful demonstration by students proves they don’t have democracy, that they don't have their basic human rights, because people should be able to say what they think without having to pay with their lives,” Cordero said.
Toward the end of the forum, participants could film words of encouragement to Venezuelan students, who have, according to Cordero, put themselves in danger by speaking out against the government of president Nicolas Maduro.
Media reports indicate social media is the only form of information available to students in Venezuela.
Maduro threatened to expel the foreign press and has instigated frequent internet blackouts. To show support, a rally took place on the steps of the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Feb. 22 as a part of a larger national movement under #SOSVenezuela. The hashtag has been featured on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, among other social media websites.
-David Matthew Stewart is a broadcast journalism major at Utah State University. Audio and information from his story that ran on Feb. 26 on the USU department of journalism and communication's TV news program, Aggie TV News, were used in this report.