The Americas

Venezuelan officials, relatives, targeted and shamed when traveling abroad

Public shamings targeting Venezuelans who are in any way connected to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro are becoming more frequent in the U.S. and around the world.

Whether it's at a Miami diner, attending the opera in New York or strolling along a beach in Australia, current and former Venezuelan government officials — even their children — are finding it harder to enjoy the good life abroad while an increasingly violent power struggle plays out back home.


One recent week day, activists unfurled a giant, anti-government banner outside a gated community in a Miami suburb known as Little Venezuela where a purported front man for a prominent Chavista governor, Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, is believed to live with his beauty queen wife.

"He's killed a lot of young men in Tachira state, and he doesn't care. And his buddies live here in Doral Isles," Jani Mendez, an accountant from Venezuela, shouted from a megaphone as passing cars honked in support. "Just so you know who your neighbors are."

In Bern, Switzerland, a woman recently confronted Venezuelan Ambassador Cesar Mendez at a grocery store, yelling "corrupt" and "thieves" in German as stunned shoppers looked on.


Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations, Rafael Ramirez, was surprised attending the opera in New York. In Madrid, a businessman linked to Maduro's government was harassed at a bakery counter.

"Your time is running up, buddy," a man is heard yelling at the businessman on a video taken with a cellphone. "You're all going to wind up face down. Nicely strung up."

In Miami, small groups of exiles are carrying pop-up protests against "Chavistas" organized with the WhatsApp messaging application. One calls itself "Outing the Enchufado," or the "plugged in," and announces its events just hours before they occur. Activists speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation say they get information from hackers in Caracas about where people with government links are living.

One of the most debated videos, seen hundreds of thousands of times, shows Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez's daughter Lucia Rodriguez walking with a man along Bondi beach in Sydney as she is badgered in Spanish by a woman who walks alongside shouting, "Thanks to your father, people are dying!"

An online petition now signed by nearly 30,000 people asks Australian authorities to revoke Rodriguez's student visa, saying that money of a "dubious and dishonest origin" financed her filmmaking studies there.

President Maduro has denounced the aggressive attacks on former and current officials abroad as violent and undemocratic, comparing them with the anti-Semitism faced by Jews in Nazi Germany.

Even some of Maduro's detractors oppose attacks on officials' families.

"If you find a figure in public, I am all for recording the encounter and showing your disgust," said Mari Montes, a former sports journalist who moved from Venezuela to Miami with her family in 2014.

"But going to houses where there could be children, I don't like that because it can get out of hand. It's a risk we don't have to take," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.