Ex­pats call Venezuela ‘a dic­ta­tor­ship’

Toronto Star - - GREATER TORONTO -

“The sit­u­a­tion back home is very del­i­cate right now,” she said.

Peo­ple were dy­ing in hospi­tals due to lack of med­i­ca­tion. In the past three years, Mah­mens says she has watched the Venezue­lan com­mu­nity in Toronto grow larger as her home­land be­comes in­creas­ingly un­safe.

“My mom thanks ev­ery day that we’re here,” she said. “But that’s a par­ent say­ing to a child, ‘I’m so happy you’re far away from me — that you’re gone.’ ”

Or­ga­niz­ers in Toronto were pre- pared for 5,000 to 7,000 vot­ers when the fa­cil­ity opened at 10 a.m. But by 8:30, crowds were al­ready gath­er­ing — clad in Venezue­lan flags as they lined up around the block.

The vote was called by the Venezue­lan coali­tion of op­po­si­tion par­ties’ Demo­cratic Unity Round­table. The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment ex­pressed con­cern this month about Venezuela’s stray from “con­sti­tu­tional or­der,” urg­ing its gov­ern­ment to re­spect cit­i­zens’ demo­cratic rights.

Is­abel Pardo, who left her home coun­try be­fore her two daugh­ters were born, said she couldn’t do her job as a lawyer in Venezuela any­more.

“We live in a dic­ta­tor­ship that’s com­mit­ted nu­mer­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” Pardo said. “Even though this is not an of­fi­cial elec­tion, it’s a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. That has a lot of weight.”

But, for Guellermo, he’s hold­ing onto the chance that things in Venezuela will get bet­ter. “I like the trees, the grass, the school, my house, ev­ery­thing,” he said, chat­ting hap­pily. “I hope that I could go back there one day.”

VIC­TO­RIA GIB­SON/TORONTO STAR

Guellermo Gon­za­lez, 7, with his fa­ther, Al­fredo Gon­za­lez, says his fam­ily left home “be­cause they’re killing peo­ple.”

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