Clutching signs and waving flags, more than 100 people rallied on a cold Saturday afternoon in Copley Square to support Venezuela’s opposition leader and condemn the Latin American country’s embattled president.
The demonstration coincided with dueling protests in their homeland, where President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó are locked in a bitter political standoff over who should lead the country.
Boston’s rally was organized by local Venezuelans who want Maduro to give up power, an organizer said.
“We cannot be in silence,” said Denise Rincon, clad in a Venezuela flag scarf and baseball cap. “This is not about rebellion. This is about our duty to restore democracy in our country.”
The political crisis began on Jan. 23, when Guaidó declared himself acting president, two weeks after Maduro was sworn in to a second six-year term. Earlier this week, Guaidó called for demonstrations to support him. Maduro, who was sworn into office, urged his loyalists to also take to the streets to defend the socialist government.
Rincon, an educator who immigrated from Venezuela 10 years ago, said Guaidó has a right to proclaim himself interim president, in accordance with Venezuela’s constitution.
Images and news reports from Venezuela have depicted a poor, struggling country in recent years. Rincon said she sends part of her salary, food, and medicine to her friends and family still in the country.
“The situation is really bad,” she said.
Demonstrators, many with Venezuelan flags draped around them, shuffled in and out of the crowd during the two-hour rally. Most who spoke talked in Spanish, to express support for Guaidó. The crowd roared with applause the first couple of times Guaidó’s name was mentioned.
A person dressed in all black with a sign that read “Si el precio de la libertad es la vida, yo pago” — “If the price of liberty is life, I pay” — hanging from their neck stood on the stage next to speakers.
On one hand, the person clenched a Venezuelan flag and on the other a Nicaraguan one.
As activists took the stage, Franklin Marval, of Boston, stood off to the side, gripping a sign that said “Venezuela Libre” — Free Venezuela.
“We are here to let people know Maduro’s regime is not what we want,” he said.
Marval, who said he moved to the US 20 years ago, went to Venezuela last November, and saw “misery everywhere.”
“There is no food. People are starving,” he said. “There’s people eating from the trash. It is not right . . . We want new elections and then work toward what the people of Venezuela want — not what these people who are in power right now want.”
At one point during the rally, Rincon led a moment of silence. She asked everyone to think of the same positive thought: a peaceful Venezuela without Maduro.
“No, we should jail him!” one man shouted, before people bowed their heads and the only audible sounds were those of flags blowing in the wind and cars in the distance.