Some South Florida Venezuelans are Frustrated After Nicolas Maduro's Victory

Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, won a razor-thin victory in Sunday's special presidential election, defeating the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles.

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    AP

    Alex Castillo, who lives in Davie, says he is frustrated and sad that Henrique Capriles was defeated by Nicolas Maduro in the Venezuelan presidential election.

    Capriles has asked for a recount. But Castillo said: “Why did I let myself get my hopes up again? Once again I feel frustrated and sad.”

    Maduro, Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor won Sunday's special presidential election, defeating the opposition.

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    Many exiles have bought and sold real estate, and others have started their own businesses, such as Luis Schilling. He, Dr. Ariel Armony, Valeria Briceno and Silvestro Monaco spoke about Hugo Chavez's impact on South Florida.

    “On the other side, if what they are saying is true and the results are clean and transparent, then it’s even more sad that the 5 million Venezuelans who voted for Maduro can’t distinguish a political movement from a person who is not prepared,” said Castillo, who stayed up to about 2 a.m. thinking about what had happened in his native country.

    But Castillo was not alone.

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    Melanie Navarro gathered with her family in her Plantation home to wait for the results. They began watching the signal from Venezuelan TV at around 7:30 p.m. and were hopeful, until the moment the results were announced.

    “I cried, and I was angry. I was extremely upset,” Navarro said.

    Capriles refused to accept the result and demanded a full recount. He said he wants every vote to count, and if Maduro is sworn in without a recount he should be considered an illegitimate president.

    At the restaurant El Arepazo 2, in Doral, Venezuelans gathered to watch the results. They chanted, held up flags and held hands waiting for the results. They say they were hopeful until the last minute when Tibisay Lucena, the head of the electoral commission, made the official announcement.

    “We were hopeful cheerful and happy,” said Emily Bello-Pardo, the U.S. student leader of Voto Joven, a nonpartisan worldwide organization devoted to getting Venezuelan voters to the polls. “But once Tibisay announced it, everything changed.”

    Bello-Pardo waited three hours in the cold and rain to vote in New Orleans, but back at El Arepazo, she stood in shock, staring at the TV.

    “I was in shock for like two minutes trying to wrap my hard around it,” Bello-Pardo said. “I was trying to make sense of the entire day. I had been drenched in water. It was a strange day.”

    But despite the bad news, Bello-Pardo was pleased with the voter turnout in Louisiana.

    “The fact that so many people went to New Orleans gives me hope,” Bello-Pardo said.

    Various Venezuelan activist groups will meet on Monday at El Arepazo 2 to demand an audit of the votes.

    "I hope that the United States does not formally recognize the Maduro government because it was close enough to have a recount, we should have a recount," said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

    Monday's meeting at the restaurant hopes to show the South Florida support to Capriles.

    “Venezuelans are compromised with democracy and that gives me hope. We just have to wait and see what happens,” Bello-Pardo