Venezuelan in Brickell: "Our Country Is Facing Some Really Tough Times Right Now"

By Claudia DoCampo
|  Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014  |  Updated 10:09 PM EDT
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Mario DiGiovanni lives in Brickell, but it wasn’t too long ago that he too was a student protesting against the Venezuelan government. NBC 6's Claudia DoCampo has the story.

Mario DiGiovanni lives in Brickell, but it wasn’t too long ago that he too was a student protesting against the Venezuelan government. NBC 6's Claudia DoCampo has the story.

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Mario DiGiovanni lives in Brickell, but it wasn’t too long ago that he too was a student protesting against the Venezuelan government.

"We're basically here giving all the support possible to what's going on in Venezuela,” DiGiovanni said. “Our country is facing some really tough times right now and we need to communicate to the world and let the know what's going on.”

But as the latest protests in Venezuela continue, DiGiovanni fears for his family's safety.

”Where my house is there were over 200 people [on] motorcycles shooting around, so you see how this violence, even though you're not present in the protests, can spread throughout the city. So it’s something that really stays on your mind all the time, I know I fear for my family,” he said.

Meantime a Venezuelan opposition leader who was wanted by authorities, Leopoldo Lopez, surrendered to police Tuesday. He was sought on an arrest order for allegedly inciting violence that broke out during protests last week in which three people were killed. But Lopez – who wore white Tuesday to symbolize nonviolence – said he didn’t fear going to jail to defend his beliefs and constitutional right to peacefully protest against the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro.

In South Florida, in a gathering in the city of Doral, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was getting involved in efforts to curtail violence and stand with the student protesters. And she is also calling for a reduction of Venezuelan oil imports into the U.S. and more awareness of the situation.

"When we had the Arab Spring there was a great clamor from the international press and from the community to say we're with you, but for the Venezuelan people not so much. So we want leaders to say we are with the Venezuelan people,” she said.

On Monday Maduro’s government gave three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave, alleging that they were aiding the unrest.

The U.S. State Department responded Tuesday in part, "The allegations against our diplomats by the Venezuelan government are baseless and false. Our Consular Officers were conducting normal outreach activities at universities on student visas."

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