Venezuelans in South Florida closely following Hugo Chavez’s health

Venezuelan nationals who live in South Florida and voted against Hugo Chavez in October are keeping a close eye on the latest developments with the Venezuelan president’s health.

“I think that the worst in the whole thing is that we don’t know what’s going on. That, I think, it’s horrible,” Michael Clemente said outside the El Arepazo restaurant in Doral. “It’s kind of an insult to the Venezuelan people. We are entitled to know what’s going on with our president.”

Chavez is supposed to be sworn in for a new six-year term on Jan. 10, but he hasn’t been seen publicly since he underwent cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11 – fueling speculation that he might not make it to his inauguration.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro was left in charge when Chavez went to Havana. After a five-day trip to Cuba, Maduro returned Thursday night to Caracas, saying he is hopeful Chavez will recover.

“We’ve been with his family, his daughters, his sons, with President Chavez,” Maduro said in Spanish.

Chavez is facing “complications as a result of a severe pulmonary infection” suffered after his surgery, the country’s ministry of information said Thursday.

Maduro, who is expected to be the candidate for the revolutionary party if something were to happen to Chavez, accused the opposition of playing up the illness for personal gain. The Venezuelan constitution states that if the president dies or becomes incapacitated, an election should happen, but exactly when is up for interpretation.

At El Arepazo, Maria Bello says that with or without Chavez, his revolutionary movement is huge in Venezuela.

Like Clemente, she says it will take a while for things to improve. The key is finding the right opposition leader to help move ahead in a new direction, she said.

“And to finally try to unite the two sides and become one town again,” Bello said. “Because Chavez, that’s the worst thing he did, is separate our country in two different sides and it shouldn’t be that way. We should be one, fighting for the same thing.”

Gustavo Alvarez said he does not think Maduro would get elected.

“I don’t think so because the people who voted for Chavez, they voted directly for him,” he said.

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