With growing unrest in their country, Venezuelan students in Bogotá, Colombia, answered the call of opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and María Corina Machado, and took to the streets on Sunday.
Between 100 and 280 students gathered in front of the Venezuelan Embassy to demand an end to the violence against peaceful demonstrators in across Venezuela. They also petitioned the Colombian government to take a more decisive stance against the actions of the Venezuelan regime in the past few days.
Richard De Susa, one of the students demonstrating, stated “this is not a question of political parties, [in Venezuela] there is a regime in place that is suppressing human rights . . . we ask the Colombian government to call things by their proper name and say that human rights are being violated.”
Soraya Barela, one of the protest organizers, spoke to the group of students about a petition that is being drafted. It urges Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to take a more affirmative stance with the Organization of American States (OEA) and denounce the atrocities in Venezuela.
The letter, she explained, has the support of former President Alvaro Uribe, and is in need of one million signatures from Venezuelans before being presented to President Santos.
“The Colombian government has been supportive, but we need President Santos to directly denounce the violence in Venezuela,” Barela stated. “This is not only for Venezuelans but also for the millions of Colombians subject to the same treatment by the Venezuelan regime.”
While the student protestors cannot make demands of their host country, their hope is that this petition will cause Santos to join Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias in denouncing the actions of the Venezuelan government against its own citizens.
The relationship between Colombia and Venezuela has been one of diplomatic highs and lows. In 2010, the tension was at its highest when President Alvaro Uribe declared that the Venezuelan government was harboring members of the FARC guerrilla group.
Once in office, however, one of President Santos’s first actions was to shake the hand of President Hugo Chavez and re-establish a diplomatic relationship. President Santos was later one of the first leaders in the region to recognize the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s questionable election in 2013.