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Tension in Venezuela has reached many in the Michiana Area

SOUTH BEND, Ind- International tension; Venezuela’s president got enough votes to permit him to replace the country’s National Assembly.

Experts say that vote could consolidate the leader’s power and lead to a dictatorship. It’s a move that’s been met with violent protests in that country.

The Venezuelan community of Michiana is using this opportunity to speak up and now that President Nicolas Maduro received the green light for a new Constituent Assembly, that opens up an opportunity to rewrite the county’s constitution.

The problem is the opposition for one, doesn’t think the vote was done constitutionally. Two, they have been protesting since April.

On Sunday July 30th, a day before the polls closed in Venezuela, about 40 protesters surrounded the Jon Hunt Plaza in South Bend.

While they held each other’s hands, they also held on to hope for their county. “We have to find the strength to continue to help them. I just hope we can help them survive,” says Maria Casadio, a South Bend Venezuelan.

Sad, frustrated…”Why do they have to use the force against their own people? Just because they think differently, just because they want to be respected, no,” says Casadio.

…and almost speechless, “It’s my county. I was born there,” says Soraya Valecillos, another South Bend Venezuelan. “My friends and family are all there.”

Three South Bend Venezuelans, Maria Casadio and her daughter Cristina along with Soraya Valecillos shared their thoughts on why they think Sunday night’s vote was unconstitutional.

“The government should’ve called on the people to give their opinion on the referendum,” said Casadio. “Do you want one or not? Maduro did not do that.”

“They have all the power; they only care about their people, which is not the majority,” explains Valecillos.

“It feels awful that the young kids are dying trying to fight for the human rights of the county,” says Cristina.

The county's attorney general's office says, since April, the death toll is at 125. On top of that, there’s another issue.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council stated more than 8 million votes were counted, but the National Assembly president tweets this was the biggest electoral fraud.

“The centers where people go to vote they were empty during the day,” says Casadio. “So where did the votes come from?”

Casadio says the coming months worry her most because she knows the problem has only begun.

“They are just destroying the republic, erasing it completely. So what’s going to happen? Cuba is going to have more participation. Russia is going to have more participation. They even talked about ISIS training in Venezuela.”

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