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Activists want this international student out of the country

Lucia Rodriguez is living it up in Bondi while her Venezuelan compatriots struggle under her family’s socialist rule.
Lucia Rodriguez is living it up in Bondi while her Venezuelan compatriots struggle under her family’s socialist rule. Instagram

THE streets in her home country are lined with crowds protesting food shortages, government corruption and brutality.

But Lucia Rodriguez is safely ensconced in Bondi, surfing and enjoying cocktails at the beach between classes at Sydney's SAE Creative Media ­Institute.

She looks like any other foreign student, but the photogenic brunette is the target of calls for her deportation, thanks to her family's prominent role in the Venezuelan government.

Human rights activists have launched a petition calling for Ms Rodriguez, and other children of the socialist regime's leaders, to be thrown out of the country - and the source of their cash investigated.

The campaigners are furious that these privileged young Venezuelans are free to enjoy all the trappings of living in a liberal democracy, while their compatriots can't afford to buy medicine or bread, let alone send their kids overseas to study.

And they want to know where the money has come from to fund these students' Western lifestyles, at a time when the Venezuelan currency is essentially worthless.

A bodyguard stands between Lucia Rodriguez and a protester in Bondi.
A bodyguard stands between Lucia Rodriguez and a protester in Bondi. YouTube

Ms Rodriguez's father is Jorge Rodriguez, a key member of late president Hugo Chavez's socialist government, which stands accused of a raft of human rights violations as the country grapples with a social, political and economic crisis.

Lucia’s father Jorge Rodriguez is the hard-left mayor of Libertador, Caracas.
Lucia’s father Jorge Rodriguez is the hard-left mayor of Libertador, Caracas. Meridith Kohut

Her aunt Delcy Rodriguez, the troubled nation's Foreign Minister under current President Nicolas Maduro, has defended Venezuela's economic system at the United Nations, where she blamed the "imperial powers" of the United States and its allies of seeking to "destabilise" the socialist country.

Mr Maduro's regime stripped Venezuela's legislative assembly of its power earlier this year, sparking fears the government is moving towards dictatorship.

In a petition to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, the activists called for Ms Rodriguez's student visa to be cancelled.

Lucia Rodriguez cuddles up to a kangaroo.
Lucia Rodriguez cuddles up to a kangaroo. Instagram

"The Australian Government must be aware about the 'doubtful and dishonest' origin of the money that finances Miss Lucia Rodriguez studies and her ­expenses in Australia," the petition, which has drawn close to 30,000 signatures, says.

"The current Venezuelan government is involved in serious ­allegations of corruption, violence, human rights violations ... and Lucia Rodriguez's father and her aunt are some of the politicians involved in these serious crimes allegations.

"Ironically, Ms Rodriguez critiques capitalist countries but enjoys her life in Australia."

Demonstrators hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the clashes with the Venezuelan government security forces.
Demonstrators hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the clashes with the Venezuelan government security forces. Ariana Cubillos

A member of the protest group told news.com.au that family members back home in Venezuela were struggling to survive amid food shortages and triple-digit inflation.

"You can't buy Panadol, it is very hard to find any medicine and even things like cooking oil are very expensive," the protester told news.com.au.

"The supermarket shelves are empty and you have to pay a substantial price for basic food on the black market."

The Venezuelan currency has been so dramatically devalued that citizens have taken to transporting bolivares in wheelbarrows.

An investigation by the Associated Press found that members of the Venezuelan military were selling pallets of corn flour for 100 times to government-set price, with one retired general stating that food had become "a better business than drugs".

Police have been criticised over their response to the looting that has broken out as desperate citizens hunt for food, with more than 40 people shot dead during six weeks of unrest.

Among them was 15-year-old Jose Francisco Guerrero, whose sister Maris Contreras told Reuters the boy had been sent out to buy flour for dinner by their mother.

President Nicolas Maduro has hit back at the criticism, comparing the attacks on officials' family members overseas to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

His government often characterises its political opposition as "fascist" and has recently accused its opponents of trying to stage a coup.

dana.mccauley@news.com.au

Topics:  editors picks human rights lucia rodriguez protests venezuela

News Corp Australia

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