Crickets from White House as Venezuelans Risk All to Throw Out the Chavistas

Florida lawmakers are trying to turn the Obama administration's attention toward two weeks of escalating deadly protests in Venezuela, where protesters frustrated with the socialist government have taken to the streets to demand a better country.

The late Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian experiment, continued by his handpicked successor Nicolas Maduro, has resulted in an economy in tatters, sky-high crime, and massive government corruption.

Maduro has put the world on "alert" that he's "facing a developing coup plan against the democracy and the government that I preside over, orchestrated by a small group of irresponsible leaders, violent, full of hatred and personal ambitions." Protesters have demanded he resign.

"So we are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding these February 12th protests, and by the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. We join the Secretary General of the OAS in condemning the violence and calling on authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of peaceful protestors. We also call on the Venezuelan government to release the 19 detained protestors and urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at Friday's press briefing.

In addition to three protesters killed and dozens wounded, the government ordered all cable providers to stop carrying Colombian news channel NTN24 because it was broadcasting the protests live.

"Let me see what I have on that. Well, certainly, as we do everywhere, we support press freedoms, citizens’ rights to freedom of expression. Obviously, this includes press freedom. We – I haven’t seen the thing about the Colombian TV station," Harf said. "We do understand that some newspapers are having difficulty securing newsprint, ink, and other supplies to publish, and that some have reduced their pages to conserve newsprint or to stop publishing completely. Obviously, we believe the government should take actions to fix the solution, that it’s not okay, that press freedom is a cornerstone of what we think is important both in Venezuela but also around the world."

That's the only response that's come out of the Obama administration.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who was an ardent foe of Chavez, said "Maduro's repressive tactics have undermined the rights and dignity of the Venezuelan people, and now some of the nation’s brave youth have fallen victim to his dictatorial rule."

"With the Venezuelan constitution and democracy under siege, the people wish to speak out against efforts to acquire complete control of the country. As these two days have demonstrated, the Venezuelan people still have a voice – and they won’t be silenced," Ros-Lehtinen said. “I urge responsible nations everywhere to stand in solidarity with those in Venezuela who bravely express their opposition to this regime and seek to protect their democratic liberties. In the struggle for freedom where the state uses violence to harm its people, neutrality is not an option.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said "the world must wake up to what’s happening in Venezuela as the government’s unprecedented wave of repression is beating, jailing and even killing innocent Venezuelans, particularly its young people."

“President Obama should condemn all violent reprisals by government-affiliated groups against peaceful student marches. The president and his administration should vigorously enforce all existing U.S. laws to identify and sanction individuals engaging in these human rights violations. And I urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to swiftly approve the Global Human Rights Act pending before it, as a means of countering threats against individual freedoms in places like Venezuela," Rubio said.

“Nicolás Maduro and his thugs should know that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable for their cruelty and violations of human rights. The people of Venezuela have suffered long enough and, as they continue taking to the streets in peaceful protest, I stand with them and against the Venezuelan government’s brutal and lethal tactics."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) said he urges the international community to "affirm its commitment to the basic freedoms that are under brutal assault in Venezuela, and to stand with the Venezuelan people who are demanding democratic institutions free from corruption, and who are asserting their right to live free from oppression."