'We care about them': Edmontonians rally against presidential election in Venezuela
'This is freedom. I want my country to recover freedom as well'
As controversial presidential elections were underway in Venezuela on Sunday, a small group of Edmontonians joined a series of protests happening around the world.
About three dozen people at the Edmonton rally waved flags and chanted "What do we want? Freedom!" There were 195 similar rallies happening on Sunday, including seven in Canadian cities, said organizer Tomas Basanta.
The purpose of the rally, he said, was to show support for citizens in their home country and encourage Canadians to sign petitions urging federal government intervention in Venezuela.
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"We live in Canada but we are Venezuelan citizens and we care about our country, we care about our people. This is freedom," he said, gesturing to the small group gathered at the Alberta Legislature grounds.
"I want my country to recover freedom as well."
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was expected to win a second, six-year term in the Sunday election, which Canada, the U.S. and others are rejecting as illegitimate.
Basanta thanked the Canadian government for preventing more than 5,000 Venezuelan citizens living in Canada from taking part in the vote.
"The Canadian government said no to open ballots in Canada. We're not going to take this, we're not going to play the game, we're not going to be part of that joke," he said.
While many Venezuelans have fled to live abroad, those staying behind wait in line for hours to buy subsidized food and withdraw cash that can be impossible to find.
"The main reason of this [rally] … is to show them that we care about them, for the dignity of them," said Basanta.
"We have family down there, we have sons and grandparents and parents living there who suffer, who have nothing to eat at times, nothing to drink. There is no food, there is no medicines, people are killing, people are being killed in the streets."
The petition campaign is seeking support for requests that will be forwarded to a number of national governments including France, Canada, Switzerland and Germany.