Local demonstrators sound off about conflict in Venezuela

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Thousands of Venezuelans are taking to the streets in support of and opposition to their President, Nicolas Maduro.

The weeks of protests and violence continued through the weekend.

Here in Cincinnati, hundreds of anti-Maduro protesters gathered at Fountain Square on Sunday.

The anti-government protesters tell FOX19 they are angry about commodity shortages, rising crime and inflation rates that in January exceeded 50 percent.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames the violence on "right wing extremists who want to destabilize the country."

At Fountain Square the protesters chanted, in Spanish, that the country is on fire.

Many of the protesters work for Procter and Gamble which has a significant interests in Latin America.

Protester Carla Suarez says the Maduro Government has become increasingly repressive and is the cause of widespread shortages of basic good.

"We cannot find milk in the supermarkets, eggs, sugar, even toilet paper and the list goes on," she says.

"Maduro is a coward" the protesters chant. Javier Gozales wears a gold, red and blue scarf, the colors of the Venezuelan flag and says Maduro silences the media.

"There's no such a thing as freedom because they shut down TV channels," Gozales said of life current conditions in Venezuela.

Gonzales and his fellow protesters insist they love their country, but he says Maduro has to go.

"We're anti Castro that's what we are. Maduro is a puppet....who is running the country right now is Castro."

14-year-old Alejandra Bello recently moved to the United States from Venezuela and says she fears for friends and family that remain.

"I worry mostly about their safety because it was never a safe country to begin with so all this happening it just got me really worried every time they're out at night."

As the number of protesters started to grow a small group of pro-government demonstrators showed up who were not welcome.

A brief shouting match broke out between the two groups with anti-government protesters telling the Maduro supporters to go back to Venezuela

Edward Mercado has been in the U.S. 20 years and says the anti-Maduro protesters in Venezuela are trying to seek change through violence.

"It's clearly a democracy where all sectors have the chance to participate.  I'm just here to show that I support the legitimately elected President Maduro the president of Venezuela and we have many ways of getting rid of a president and burning up the streets is not one of them," said Mercado.

The anti-Maduro protesters want the United States and the international community to investigate reports of human rights abuses and to pressure the Venezuelan government to end what they call a reign of terror and repression.

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