(DORAL) – Many Venezuelans who traveled to New Orleans to vote in their country’s presidential election, and those who stayed in South Florida and watched the results on television, said they were disappointed by the outcome.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was re-elected to another six-year term in office Sunday, according to results from the Venezuelan National Electoral Council.
The outcome, announced just before 11 pm, shocked many Venezuelans in South Florida gathered to watch the results at El Arepazo 2 restaurant in Doral.
“I just hope the best for my family over there,” Barbara Marcel said through tears.
Hundreds of eyes were glued to screens streaming live images from Venezuela where, less than five hours after the polls closed, election officials announced Chavez defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
“I cannot go back. Obviously I will never go back,” Marcel said.
“I just think it’s a lie. They cheated as always,” one young Venezuelan said.
“We’re not happy with the results” another man said. “We didn’t want this.”
National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said that with most votes counted, Chavez had about 54 percent of the vote. She added that including early returns, they had an 81% voter turnout.
While millions voted in Venezuela, not a single ballot was cast in South Florida because the Chavez government shut down the consulate here. Instead, thousands of South Floridians made the trek to New Orleans, by bus or by plane, to vote.
“It’s so sad, it’s not fair,” said Maria Teresa Luis, who arrived back in Doral early Monday morning. “I don’t think it’s a very good election because we did all we could but we didn’t win.”
Some could not afford to take the trip, but they rallied together to support those who did.
“They are really, really fighters,” said Daniel Hernandez. “They really defend the country and they feel real proud for their country and I’m really proud of them.”
Congresswoman Ileana-Ros Lehtinen thanked them for their efforts.
“It has been nothing short of remarkable, magical, to see the sacrifice of Venezuelan Americans.”
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen worried Sunday about what another Chavez term will mean for Venezuela and the United States. She said she doubted the validity of the outcome.
While the outcome did not please everyone, they said they still have hope for the future of Venezuela.
“To all the Venezuelans let’s pray,” Ricardo Melchor said. “And to all the non-Venezuelans, pray for us because it’s not only our country but the rest of the world.”
It was Chavez’s third re-election victory in nearly 14 years in office. The victory gives Chavez another term to cement his legacy and press more forcefully for a transition to socialism in a country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Capriles congratulated Chavez and told his supporters not to feel defeated. He added that he would never stop fighting for Venezuela.