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Dozens of Venezuelans stage protest in Hollywood over controversial elections in homeland

Dozens of Venezuelans staged a protest in Hollywood on Sunday over controversial elections in their homeland.
(Andrea Castillo/Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of Venezuelans staged their own protest in Hollywood on Sunday as violence erupted in Caracas over elections that would give controversial President Nicolas Maduro more power.

Demonstrators took over much of the sidewalk in front of the TCL Chinese Theater, wearing Venezuelan flags as capes and other red, blue and yellow decorations.

Nelly Medina, a Torrance resident, held a sign summarizing their fight: “Maduro wants to rewrite Venezuela’s Constitution in a way that disempowers Venezuelan citizens. This is unconstitutional.”

Another sign depicted Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel — who is Venezuelan and has been criticized by some for not speaking out more forcefully against the government — conducting on top of a piano played by Maduro. Both men are bloodied and the piano doubled as an open casket. The caption reads, “Communism is the symphony of destruction.”

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Voters in Venezuela went to the polls Sunday to elect members of a new constitutional assembly that would be charged with writing a new charter for the country. The vote came amid nationwide protests that have claimed more than 100 lives, including nine people who were reportedly killed Sunday during demonstrations.

Opposition leaders had urged Maduro opponents to boycott the voting, calling it an illegal power grab and an attempt by Maduro to sideline the opposition-controlled National Assembly. A majority of Venezuelans blame Maduro for food scarcities, rising crime and an increasingly autocratic government.

The protesters in Hollywood chanted that they wanted freedom for their home country. They also broke into song and dance, gathering around one man and his bandmates as he strummed on a cuatro, a popular Venezuelan string instrument.

Maria Alejandra Contreras said she’s sure that leaders will succeed in changing the Venezuelan Constitution. But she said it’s important to make noise even from afar, so that people can learn what her fellow countrymen are going through.

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“Venezuelans have neither voice nor vote,” she said. “It’s a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy.”

carlos.lozano@latimes.com


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