Trump’s visit to FIU: Live coverage

Trump Visits FIU from South Florida News Service on Vimeo.

As the larger Florida International University community prepares for President Donald Trump’s arrival Monday afternoon, follow South Florida News Service’s team coverage. We will be on campus and off, giving you the latest developments on this historic event.

Pre-speech coverage:

Just before midday, Adriana M. Brigham, a Miami-Dade County resident, stood in the long line of people outside Ocean Bank Convocation Center hoping to see President Donald J. Trump speak about Venezuela. A Trump supporter, she said it was important for her to be here today to show her support for the Venezuelan community.

“I want them to have a free country, and I have a lot of friends that are Venezuelans that are suffering,” said Brigham.

Brigham said she wants to see Trump talk about taking real action and putting pressure on Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, to resign, so humanitarian aid can reach those who need it.

Brigham’s three young grandchildren had come with her to see Trump’s address. Brigham reminisced on seeing the late President John F. Kennedy speak and thought it was a special opportunity for her grandchildren to also see a sitting president.

— Imogen Francis

National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks to members of the media prior to President Donald Trump’s speech at FIU on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Mariandrea Vergel Prieto / SFNS)

At about 2 p.m. in FIU’s Ocean Bank Convocation Center, members of the news media entered the press area near the back of the building. Some supporters in the bleachers and seating floor area were wearing MAGA shirts and hats. The words “libertad, democracia and prosperidad” were being displayed on big screens as well as a written quote in Spanish from Trump: “We are with the Venezuelan people on their noble search for freedom.”

— Mariandrea Vergel Prieto

National Security Advisor John R. Bolton answered questions about Venezuela’s current situation before President Donald Trump delivered his speech at Florida International University.

Bolton said the president was going to talk about a peaceful transition of power as well as efforts to get humanitarian aid into the country.

“Those in the regime who would like to get off at the last clear chance,” said Bolton about a possibility for amnesty to Maduro’s loyalists. “This is a good time to talk.”

Bolton said Maduro’s loyalists face sanctions if they decide to do business with Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. or “with any elements of the Maduro regime that attempts to steal the assets of the Venezuelan people, the country’s oil reserves or any of it assets.”

“The future is right in the face of Maduro and currently that future is very short,” he said.

Military officials from Venezuela have been in contact with Venezuela’s National Assembly at “great levels of success,” said Bolton.

According to Bolton, Juan Guaidó’s government plan is to bring humanitarian assistance into Venezuela through different places at the border on Saturday, Feb. 23.

On the president’s comments regarding military interference in Venezuela as the probable option, Bolton said there is not going to be a military force to deliver humanitarian assistance. “The people of Venezuela are going to deliver that,” he said.

— Edda León

Around 2:30 p.m., students and members of multiple organizations gathered on FIU’s Graham Center lawns to speak out against President Trump ahead of his speech at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center later today. Venezuela was the main talking point, as the president will address conditions in that country. Some students opposed the protests, and the protesters urged them to let the speakers be heard.

Many chants could be heard, such as, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” and “Up, up with education; down, down with deportation.”

At 3:07 p.m., the protesters marched toward the center chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”

— Armando Montesino

A man holding a t-shirt that reads
A man holding a t-shirt that reads “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president” inside the Ocean Bank arena. He declined to give his name. (Carla Palmer / SFNS)

Just before 3 p.m., Alessandra Mondolfi was outside the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, carrying large signs with “Hate” and “Abuse of Power.”  Her sole purpose was to protest President Donald J. Trump and his emergency declaration to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This man has declared a national emergency which is an abuse of power, a very frightening one,” said Mondolfi. “So, I’m taking a stand and asking for the declaration to be terminated.”

Born in Venezuela, Mondolfi is also very interested in Trump’s speech. While she thinks that there needs to be an international presence in the country and humanitarian relief, she also believes Trump is using the situation to stoke public fears about socialism in the United States.

“Venezuela is not a socialist country, zip, zero, nada,” said Mondolfi “It’s a full-on authoritarian dictatorship.”

— Imogen Francis

Earlier this afternoon, Florida International University student Shalenah Ivey walked out of the gym to a long line of people waiting outside the Ocean Bank Convocation Center. She was surprised to see so many Trump supporters wearing “MAGA” hats and chanting in excitement.

“In one way, it gets our name out there, but it is more damaging on the long run because of the divisiveness in his presidency,” said Ivey.

She expressed her disapproval for President Trump’s reasons in choosing FIU to deliver a speech on the crisis in Venezuela. She said Trump is just using this as an excuse to speak negatively on socialism.

“It’s really naïve to think that a U.S. president having any involvement in a Latin American country, especially in one with a lot of oil, is doing so out of the goodness of his heart,” she said.

Despite her opinions on Trump, Ivey stayed to watch an interview with representatives from the Venezuelan American Republican Alliance to understand their reasons for supporting Trump.

— Maria Pinero and Shannon McMullen

At about 3:30 p.m. Monday, standing among protestors outside the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, a 71-year-old woman got into a shouting match with a Trump supporter.

Stephanie Rupp, standing with the assistance of a walker, said a man approached her shouting in Spanish and at one point physically touched her.

She said she didn’t understand why he was so upset when she was peacefully protesting.

“Why is he here?” asked Rupp.

— Imogen Francis 

Juan Pablo Chacón (left) and Alex Calzadilla, members of the Venezuelan and Republican Association, support President Trump’s efforts to support interim President Juan Guaidó.

“I think there will be interesting announcements and details on the plan to keep going forward and achieving democracy for Venezuela,” said Calzadilla, who voted for Trump in the 2016 elections. “I’m very excited, very optimistic, I think that what is happening is irreversible and I’m convinced that President Trump has set his mind to taking these delinquents out of power.”

— Carla Palmer 

Mariana Del Junco (left) and Maria Galvis stood outside the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in protest against Donald Trump’s use of a national emergency to get money for construction of a wall at the southern border. (Nayeli Lomeli / SFNS)


Minutes before President Trump’s speech was scheduled to start, FIU students Maria Galvis and Mariana Del Junco joined the protest outside of the Ocean Bank Convocation Center.

“We are basically here because this is the real national emergency,” Galvis said, as the two held a sign about gun violence, climate change and Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water.

Del Junco, a Venezuelan, agrees with Trump that Venezuela needs help, but that the real national emergency does not lie with Venezuela’s own national crisis.

The two women wore shirts that read “Latinas Contra Trump,” or “Latinas Against Trump.”

The pair  weren’t part of any club or organization, but decided to join the protest on their own.

— Nayeli Lomeli and Ana Gomez

Maria Peiro, wearing a Trump shirt, waits for President Donald Trump arrival at FIU on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 (Maria Pinero / SFNS)
Maria Peiro, wearing a Trump shirt, waits for President Donald Trump arrival at FIU on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 (Maria Pinero / SFNS)

Maria Peiro, a daughter of former Cuban political prisoner, waited outside the Ocean Bank Convocation Center to watch President Trump’s speech. She wore a Trump shirt and a “MAGA” hat, which she said was to show her support for the Venezuelan people affected by the humanitarian crisis.

“There is a dictatorship in Venezuela, worse than the one I lived in Cuba as a child,” said Peiro.

She hopes Trump sends out an anti-socialism message and reaffirms his support for interim President Juan Guaidó.

“It is a shame that the Cuban regime is now within Venezuela, helping the dictator Maduro,” said Peiro. “Our only hope is to support President Trump in urging Maduro to step down.”

— Maria Pinero

A DACA student joined the protest this afternoon outside of the Ocean Bank Convocation Center to have his voice heard as an immigrant.

Born in Honduras, Kelvin Sanchez was 8 when came to this country illegally with his parents. Now 21, he is the first member of his family to attend college

“It is a dream come true,” he said.

Sanchez said he hopes Trump will offer a way for people like him, who didn’t choose to come to this country but have been raised here, to remain here. He also wants the president to do something for Venezuela.

He said Trump has to act presidential and help Venezuela.

“We might not understand how tough it is over there,” he said. “Trump shouldn’t act on the wall, he should help Venezuela and the people in this country.”

Sanchez said he joined the protest because it is good to see people exercise their freedom of speech.

— Nayeli Lomeli

Sophomore Elan Perczek, said he didn’t know much about the Trump event, but was excited and wanted to learn more.

Perczek, 20, is a Republican voter from Aventura, said the traffic and crowds weren’t a problem.

“I was not inconvenienced by the number of people that were waiting on campus for Trump to arrive today,” the 23-year-old

Among the hundreds of people waiting to hear President Trump’s speech was Keenan Thompson, senior studying journalism.

“Although I do not know a lot about Trump’s visit or what he plans to address,” the 23-year-old independent voter said, “ I do find it important as a nation to be involved and become aware of the issues our country is involved with.”

— Leslie Gonzalez