A dozen Venezuelan students denounced the repression of student protests in Venezuela on Saturday during the World Golf Championship event in Doral.
When Tiger Woods was about to tee off at hole 18, four students displayed a banner reading “#SOSVenezuela — Free Leopoldo López,” said Andrea Roby, one of the students who participated in the protest.
López is a Venezuelan opposition leader who has been jailed by the government.
The tournament organizers asked the students to leave the course, but invited them to bring their message to the tournament party on Saturday night before an audience of hundreds of people including the families of Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Doral elected officials and other tournament participants.
“It was a way to try to attract more international attention,” Roby said.
The repression of protests in Venezuela has left at least 20 people dead.
Roby said that both the city of Doral and the Trump National Doral golf complex, where the tournament was taking place, were notified of their intention, but the information had not reached the PGA Tour organizers.
After an introduction by Doral City Manager Joe Carollo and City Commissioner Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera, Roby said she took the podium before a mostly North American audience and talked about the deaths in Venezuela and how the government of Nicolás Maduro has censored the news media.
“I asked them to send a message to President Obama … to tell the government of Venezuela to stop the violence,” Roby said.
At the end, many people in the audience repeated the message of SOS Venezuela, Roby said.
Roby, 24, studies political science and international relations and is part of the student organization Freedom Cuba Venezuela, which she said was founded when the protests in Venezuela began and whose aim is to ask Congress to impose sanctions against the Venezuelan government and those responsible for the repression.
Right now the group has about 30 members, but they also are active in other organizations of Venezuelan students.
“All opposition movements in Miami were led by politicians, but after seeing so many students take the lead in Venezuela and become the main protagonists in the action, we decided to get involved,” Roby said. “We realized the protests from Miami had not been too effective and were too disorganized.”
Carlos Taglifico, who is part of the organization and was at the event, said that the opposition in exile has received press coverage only in Miami. He said that they are working with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to persuade Congress discuss and impose sanctions against Venezuela.
Taglifico will travel with Roby to Washington on Monday to meet with members of Congress and the National League of Cities.
Roby says that they want to tell Congress the stories of people who have suffered repression in Venezuela, and who have had to hoard food, fearing that the supply will stop, or who have to make long lines to buy basic products.
She said they support the students, but that the solution to the Venezuelan problem must be peaceful.
“Violence is not an option,” Roby said.