Venezuelans in Miami commemorate country's independence with protest against Maduro government

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DORAL, Florida — Venezuelans dressed in black and planted 43 wooden crosses in the grass outside a flagship Venezuelan restaurant in Miami to protest the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

About 150 people attended the demonstration Saturday, Venezuela's independence day, El Nuevo Herald reported ( ).

The crosses were placed to represent the deaths that have occurred during months-long protests over soaring inflation, food shortages and high crime.

Jose Antonio Colina, a former official with Venezuela's national guard who fled a decade ago, said several groups in South Florida were coming together to organization a "national democratic alliance" formed with members of the opposition in Venezuela and abroad.

Several leaders called for factions within the opposition to stand together.

"This government can't be removed without unity," Horacio Medina, executive secretary for the Democratic Unity Roundtable in Miami said.

South Florida has the largest number of Venezuelans in the United States. Most of them were strongly against the government of late President Hugo Chavez and remain opposed to his successor.

Violent anti-government protests have shaken Venezuela since February.

Vicente Pugliese, press officer for an organization for politically persecuted Venezuelans, said it was the right moment for the protest because Venezuelans are now fighting for "a new independence."

Information from: El Nuevo Herald (Miami),

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