Venezuelan Activist Living in Miami Allowed to Seek Asylum Weeks After Detainment

A Venezuelan man living in South Florida after he fled his native country learned Thursday he can apply for political asylum following weeks of legal limbo. Marco Coello, a vocal critic of the Venezuelan government, was detained by ICE agents back on April 26 as he prepared for his asylum interview.

ICE said Coello faced deportation because he had a misdemeanor criminal conviction. On Wednesday, a judge stopped his deportation, allowing Coello to move forward with political asylum proceedings.

“I'm so happy and excited. I can't believe the situation. It's my dream. I'm free,” Coello said in an exclusive interview Thursday.

He sought refuge in Miami in 2014 after he was arrested in Venezuela for protesting against the government. He said he endured torture at the hands of the Venezuelan government and feared for his life.

“I want a life in my country, but I can't. In my country, I'm dead. But, I'm here, I'm fighting. I'm fighting with my country,” Coello said.

Back in Coello’s homeland, opposition protests demanding new elections and decrying Venezuela's triple-digit inflation, food shortages and worsening crime are continuing to rock the nation as President Nicolas Maduro pushes forward with his plan to draft a new constitution.

On Tuesday, police investigator Oscar Perez stole a police helicopter and flew it over the Supreme Court and Interior Ministry while firing at the buildings. Maduro characterized it as a “terrorist attack.''

Witnesses said the helicopter had hanging from its side a large banner referring to article 350 of the country's constitution, which empowers Venezuelans to disobey any regime that violates human rights.

There was relatively little damage to the buildings and no one was injured.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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