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University in Miami distanced itself from the doctorate awarded to Freddy Bernal

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The governor of Táchira state, Venezuela, Freddy Bernal, in an undated photo.

Archive/The New Herald

A university in Miami-Dade County distanced itself from the honorary doctorate that a university center in Venezuela gave to Freddy Bernal, one of the strong men of Chavismo, linked to paramilitary gangs and sanctioned by the US and other countries, while exiles announced that they will request that the visa of a Venezuelan academic be revoked.

The Florida Global University (FGU), based in the City of Doral, said that it has no participation in the decisions that only concern the Bicentennial University of Aragua (UBA) in Venezuela, which awarded the title to Bernal, an educational center with the that he affirmed “we are only united by ties of origin and the normal relations and academic cooperation between study houses in this globalized world”.

On February 18, the UBA awarded the honorary doctorate degree to Bernal, governor of the state of Táchira, in the west of the South American country, who was sanctioned by the United States in 2011 as an alleged drug trafficker and for allegedly acting on behalf of the extinct guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In 2017, he was also sanctioned for undermining democracy, censoring the press, and managing “corrupt government food supply programs.”

“Given what happened, we can only disassociate ourselves from said measure, in view of not sharing it in any way (…) I want to make it clear to the public opinion of Venezuela and the world that we are not linked to that action and even less have we been part of it,” said José Gerardo Guarisma Jr., president of the FGU, in a statement.

Guarisma confirmed that the UBA has no legal or decision ties with the FGU.

Bernal announced the honorary doctorate on his Twitter account and criticism and rejection were immediately generated on social networks.

The granting of said title also led to the resignation in Miami of Adolfo Salgueiro, a Venezuelan internationalist professor and lawyer from his position as a member of the Academic Council of the FGU’s Politics Center Academy.

Exiles ask to cancel visa

The Organization of Politically Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile (Veppex) announced Tuesday that it will ask the State Department to annul the visa and investigate the connections in the United States of Basilio Sánchez Aranguren, who gave Bernal an honorary doctorate.

José Colina, president of Veppex, said that Basilio Sánchez Aranguren is the current rector of the UBA and a few months ago he was in the United States “where he could have interests, it is for this reason that the request will be made to the State Department, since that such a decision flagrantly violates the sanctions and restrictions imposed on representatives of the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro.”

“We call on the US authorities to intensify the investigations in their territory of Venezuelan officials who are widely linked to the Nicolás Maduro regime but do business and go unnoticed,” Colina requested in a statement.

This story was originally published on February 22, 2022 3:21 p.m.

Profile picture of Sonia Osorio

Journalist and editor specializing in Latin America, judicial, business and local issues related to the Latin American community. Much of her career was developed in international news agencies. Her investigative work “Emigrate to Death: Murdered Venezuelans in Latin America” received the 2019 FSNE and SPJ Sunshine State awards.

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