In the town of Doral, nicknamed ‘Doralzuela’ because of the number of Venezuelan-Americans who live in the community, Mayor Luigi Boria, the first Venezuelan-born mayor to be elected to the post, is already waiting on the street corner where he thinks people will gather to rejoice over Hugo Chavez’ death.
“We have to start from scratch now, because [Venezuela] has been destroyed by lack of leadership,” he says. “Hopefully the next president will preserve liberty and justice,” he explains as he waits for police to cordon off several streets so people can rally peacefully. “But I think Maduro is a radical communist and we need a person who is balanced,” he added about Vice President Nicolas Maduro who constitutionally will assume power until the next president is chosen.
In New York, while the news of Chavez’s death didn’t come as a surprise given recent reports of his deteriorating health, some still worry about the uncertainty of a Venezuelan government without Chavez.
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“There is currently no balanced political structure there and I worry the country is going to be a bit of a mess,” says Marcelo Anez, 47, who left his parents and family in Caracas during the early nineties before coming to the United States to study engineering. “My biggest hope is that the highroad is taken and anyone that wants to take power takes it in a mature approach that keeps democracy affront.”
Others don’t want to speculate about will take office next, but hope Venezuelans have the opportunity to elect their next president.
“I’m just waiting for the government to announce the next election day and that the country will have a fair election,” says Ricardo Isea, 30, a political science student in New York City who left Venezuela six years ago. “The only thing I hope is that the elections are done institutionally.”
But political science professor Anita Issac at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, who specializes in Latin American politics, warns that those hopes are in the hands of the country’s military.
“What happens next will depend on what the army does in large measure,” says Isaac. “I really think this is a case where we have to see if the army will align itself with Maduro or other factions of the Chavez movement.” She explains that if the military were to stand behind Maduro as the next president, not only could it make the election process run on time, but it would also legitimize Maduro’s leadership.
Stephen Johnson, Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International studies says an election in 30 days might not give people enough time to really take stock of the dire economic situation in Venezuela. “The stability of the government going forward is a big question mark, it’s up whether the Venezuelan people will accept falsehoods going forward or not,” he adds.
Regardless, it’s the waiting game that frightens many Venezuelans abroad.
“It’s a strange moment right now and nobody knows how the government or everyone is going to react,” says Isea. “Right now it’s not the moment to be happy.”