Boston University students protested Saturday in Copley Square against the alleged oppression, widespread violence and media blockage occurring in Venezuela.
Over 250 Boston-area students and residents from various nationalities came together with pots and pans, horns, pamphlets and banners to raise awareness about the conflict that erupted in Venezuela over a week ago, which is being protested across the globe.
Helena Carpio, one of several Venezuelan BU students who helped lead the effort to draw students to the protest, said she worked for leader of the Venezuelan opposition Leopoldo Lopez in the past.
“International pressure can do a lot, especially in countries where the population is so vulnerable,” said Carpio, a College of Arts and Sciences senior. “In the case of Venezuela it’s very important strategically because we’re a country in the interest of the United States because we have a lot of oil.”
Protesters rallied through Copley Square chanting Venezuelan songs and other messages criticizing government corruption, violence and censorship.
What began as a peaceful student protest in Venezuela has transformed into a chaotic and dangerous series of riots, protestors from BU said.
Non-Venezuelan students also attended and supported the protest.
“No corrupt government should ever go ignored,” said Joe Curtin, a CAS freshman. “Someone is killed in Venezuela every 20 minutes. People don’t feel safe there. People should feel safe in their country and feel like the government is on their side, but it’s not.”
Venezuelan students said they were frustrated with President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, which has come under fire for its alleged role in the media blackout that undercut many attempts to report on the situation from Venezuela.
Curtin said Colombian news network NTN24’s website was blocked from viewers after the organization attempted to report on the protests in Venezuela.
Social media platforms and Wi-Fi were also blocked, said Carpio, whose family and friends reside in Venezuela.
“Censoring the problem isn’t going to make it better,” said Kelly Carrion, a College of Communication senior. “The president doesn’t understand that.”
The crowd repeatedly chanted “nos roban, nos matan, y ustedes no hacen nada,” which translates from Spanish to, “they rob us, they kill us and no one does anything.”
Protesters also vocalized concerns about the Venezuelan government becoming more like the Cuban government.
“We need to tell the people of Boston what’s happening, and I’m not going to let our voice — because we are the voice of our country — be shut down,” said Venezuelan native Belem De Armero Lopez, a College of Fine Arts freshman.
Protesters handed out pamphlets filled with information concerning Maduro’s rise to power, when the protests began in Venezuela and how the international population can help mount resistance to the government.
“Every time there’s a conflict like this, you have to provide the background story,” Carpio said. “You’re not going to understand it by observing the protest and the repression. You have to look at why they’re protesting and why it has come to the point where people feel so desperate that the only way to be heard is to go to the streets.”
Maria Massiani, a senior at BU’s School of Medicine, said the protest drew almost two times more attendees than an earlier effort and was effective in raising awareness.
“Our students are being killed, tortured, raped,” she said. “We protested for safety and basic needs that aren’t being met. We don’t have an outlet so it’s important to spread this all over the world.”
Following two hours of protesting, activists eventually dissipated from Copley Square around 3 p.m.
“It’s been amazing to see so many nationalities come together to support one country,” Curtin said. “It just reminds you people around the world care.”