Venezuelan expats in Florida back Trump's anti-socialism rhetoric, slam 'ignorant' AOC, Dems

DORAL, FLA. - Rosa Viller was living a nightmare in Venezuela. She loved her country but she couldn't take her kids Sharon and Alejandro to the park. In fact, she couldn't take them anywhere without bodyguards for fear they'd be kidnapped and held for ransom.

It was no way to live.

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"My husband was very, very afraid of the situation," she told Fox News. "He told me, 'Rose, we have to leave. We have two little kids. We have good jobs... a nice apartment... but how can we raise our kids in a country without safety or laws?"

The only option was to go.

"It was the best decision we've ever taken," she said.

Viller, who now owns a successful dry cleaner in Doral, is among thousands of Venezuelans who have made South Florida their new home.

The economic, political and humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Venezuela under embattled President Nicolas Maduro has set off a staggering exodus in the Latin American nation. According to conservative estimates, more than three million people have fled in the past few years. The lucky ones like the Villers leave in cars and planes. The majority make the trek to neighboring nations on foot. Those who can't afford to leave or physically aren't able to do so are left watching in horror as their country crumbles around them.

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"It hurts when I think about it," expat Alejandro Arrage told Fox. "My biggest fear is that it will happen here. They say it might... I hope, no."

Like several people Fox News recently spoke to in Miami and Doral, Arrage is committed to making sure "mini-Venezuela" doesn't turn into the real one.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have tapped into the sentiment. Both made separate visits to the area this month to deliver rousing anti-socialism speeches and have spoken directly to those affected by corrupt regimes.

On Monday, Trump told a large crowd of immigrants at Florida International University that the U.S. is "profoundly grateful to every dissident and every exile," adding that what happened in Venezuela "will never happen to us."

"A new day is coming in Latin America," he added.

"I have to believe him if I want any peace," Arrage said. "The things I have seen happen to my country haunt me every day."

The threat - however small - of the U.S. heading down a Venezuela-like path is enough for Mary Carmen Molero, who moved to Doral in 2014 with her husband and two children, to reevaluate her political leanings. 

The threat - however small - of the U.S. heading down a Venezuela-like path is enough for Mary Carmen Molero, who moved to Doral in 2014 with her husband and two children, to reevaluate her political leanings.  (Barnini Chakraborty/Fox News)

Venezuela's current problems are the result of a toxic mix of political corruption and widespread economic incompetence. Once among Latin America's most prosperous nations, two decades of socialist rule have left the country on the brink. The deepening humanitarian crisis has left millions hungry, without access to adequate medical care and a growing dread that Venezuela's best days are long gone. Even as his country struggles, Maduro and his inner circle have been widely accused of systematically plundering what remains of Venezuela's wealth to this day.

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For his part, Trump has tried to tie domestic foes like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to the hellscape playing out in Venezuela.

"Who the hell do they think they are thinking Maduro is great or that socialism is great? Socialism and communism is fine in books. Karl Marx had wonderful ideas that will never work."

— Manny Sarmiento, president of the Doral Chamber of Commerce

From the early reviews, it seems to be working.

Manny Sarmiento, president of the Doral Chamber of Commerce, told Fox News he was deeply disappointed by the demonstrators in Doral protesting Trump's Monday speech at Florida International University.

"Who are those ignorant people? If you love socialism and think everything is great then why is everyone moving to Miami?", he asked. "(The protesters) aren't walking the streets in Venezuela. Who the hell do they think they are thinking Maduro is great or that socialism is great? Socialism and communism is fine in books. Karl Marx had wonderful ideas that will never work."

Molero owns the Super Arepa Doral in Doral, Florida. Venezuelan expats are now asking why demonstrators would protest Trump's speech Monday when the situation back home is in such disarray

Molero owns the Super Arepa Doral in Doral, Florida. Venezuelan expats are now asking why demonstrators would protest Trump's speech Monday when the situation back home is in such disarray (Barnini Chakraborty/Fox News)

He holds a special brand of contempt for Ocasio-Cortez.

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"I challenge her to step foot in Venezuela," Sarmiento said. "She wouldn't last a day. I challenge her to go to Cuba. Go there - and not just to the beach. It's pure ignorance on her part."

Viller agrees and says that politicians who preach the power of socialism do so without the knowledge of what it's really like.

"You have to know the history of the country and of other countries around the world and know about the effects of socialism and the consequences of socialism," she said.

The threat - however small - of the U.S. heading down a Venezuela-like path is enough for Mary Carmen Molero, who moved to Doral in 2014 with her husband and two children, to reevaluate her political leanings.

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"Right now for us, the Trump situation is changing," she told Fox News. "We saw him one way with the wall but now I see him as a different person. He's playing a role and sending a message that is so important for our country. It's so satisfying to see him... When he was saying that the United States would never be a socialist or communist system, I was like, 'Oh God, am I a Republican now?"