VENEZUE­LANS BAND TO­GETHER

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Maria Elena Viz­caino Staff Writer

Vanessa Cas­tañeda and her fam­ily first moved to Or­lando in Jan­uary 2016, a few months af­ter three po­lice­men stopped their 1998 Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado as they re­turned from the beach near their home­town in San Diego, Venezuela. The cops held Cas­tañeda and her 3-year-old daugh­ter at gun­point while her hus­band took cash out of an ATM to pay them off.

But lone­li­ness pulled them back to Venezuela a few months later.

“I didn’t want to sep­a­rate from my fam­ily,” Cas­tañeda said. “I didn’t want to leave my par­ents alone.”

Back in Venezuela, they tried to lay low. Cas­tañeda’s hus­band, Luis Roa, 33, sold the Sil­ver­ado, which had a cus­tom paint job that made it easy for the coun­try’s fed­eral po­lice to spot. For years, the cou­ple had used the truck to ferry peo­ple and sup­plies to protests against the govern­ment of Ni­colás Maduro, un­der which food, wa­ter and medicine have be­come scarce and crime is ram­pant.

But not a year went by be­fore po­lice again stopped — and briefly de­tained — Cas­tañeda, 33, and their

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

An apart­ment com­plex in Or­lando is home to many Venezue­lans who are seek­ing asy­lum in the U.S.

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