DORAL, Fla. — Cheering Venezuelans in the U.S. waved their country’s flag and expressed hope Tuesday that change would come to their homeland after the death of long-ruling populist President Hugo Chavez.
“He’s gone!” dozens in a largely anti-Chavez community chanted after word spread of the socialist’s death. Many said they were rejoicing after nearly a decade and a half of leftist rule heavily concentrated in the hands of Chavez.
“We are not celebrating death,” Ana San Jorge, 37, said amid a jubilant crowd in the Miami suburb of Doral. “We are celebrating the opening of a new door, of hope and change.”
Wearing caps and T-shirts in the Venezuelan colors of yellow, blue and red, many expressed cautious optimism and concern after Tuesday’s announcement that the 58-year-old head of the oil-rich Latin American nation had died.
“Although we might all be united here celebrating today, we don’t know what the future holds,” said Francisco Gamez, 18, at El Arepazo.
Chavez, though cancer-stricken in recent years, had led Venezuela for years while espousing a fiery brand of socialism and also bickering with a succession of U.S. governments.
Many in Florida’s large Venezuelan community and other such pockets around the U.S. are stridently anti-Chavez and had fled their home country in response to the policies his government instituted.