Venezuelans and friends here worry about safety in Caracas

Following another day of turmoil on Venezuelan streets, Costa Ricans and Venezuelan residents say they worry about the safety of people.

Venezuelan oppositional leader Leopoldo López gave himself up to government officials Tuesday. After walking through a sea of his supporters during a demonstration in Caracas, he was arrested and taken into a military tank.

President Nicolás Maduro issued an arrest warrant last week for the former politician who has organized recent protests around the country. Operación Libertad is a student-driven group that has propelled the opposition’s protest of rising inflation and lack of security in Venezuela. Ana María Vargas, the director of Operación Libertad’s Costa Rica division, said the group was waiting to see what would happen next with López. She said that she and colleagues feared receiving news of harm done to him or to more protestors.

“What worries us is potential violence,” Ms. Vargas said. “But no matter what we will still communicate our message of peace.”

Recent demonstrations centered in the capital of Caracas that were supposed to be peaceful were mired in violence last Wednesday when three protestors from the opposition were gunned down. The government has painted their rivals as fascist and blood-thirsty, while opposition leaders contend the protests are peaceful and that it was government police who opened fire.

“We have concerns about the security of the people,” said Ricardo Lizano, who is the director of El Venezolano newspaper in San José. “Not just the opposition, but of all citizens.”

An estimated 10,000 Venezuelans live in Costa Rica, where political leaders like Oscar Arías Sánchez have voiced their displeasure with the Maduro-led government and have backed the opposition’s cause. The Human Rights Foundation issued a release to say that it condemned López’s arrest because Venezuelan authorities have failed to cultivate a democratic atmosphere with constructive dialogues.

The conflict remains on the minds of many Costa Ricans and Venezuelan immigrants. For those who have family and friends back in the embattled nation, safety remains the major prerogative.

“We are concerned about the leadership, with the threat of security,” Lizano said. “Security is the main problem in Venezuela.

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