Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Venezuelans protest Chávez successor vote

About 50 protesters gathered April 18 at the University of Tampa to demand an audit of the presidential election held in Venezuela the month.

Courtesy of Juan Pinto

About 50 protesters gathered April 18 at the University of Tampa to demand an audit of the presidential election held in Venezuela the month.


The cousins held up pinkies stained purple with ink, marked reminders of their votes in Venezuela this month for the successor to deceased president Hugo Chávez.

Antonio Daher, 21, had traveled more than 1,300 miles, taking four planes to get to his home in Valencia, Venezuela.

It was his first time voting, said Daher, an economics major at the University of Tampa, who with a friend organized a rally last week on the grounds of UT.

"We need international recognition," he said.

About 50 people held signs and passed out fliers saying democracy is at risk in Venezuela. Days earlier, at least a dozen had traveled by bus 12 hours each way to vote in New Orleans, their nearest consulate. As the sun set, they moved to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and brought out pots and pans to bang in a form of street protest called cacerolazo.

They chanted for their candidate, Henrique Capriles, who came up short in the contested election that nearly divided the country. Instead, Nicolas Maduro, handpicked by Chávez before his death, was sworn in as president.

Capriles, popular in urban areas of Venezuela, called for a full audit of ballots, alleging thousands of irregularities at polling centers.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry subsequently told lawmakers that Washington was not ready to recognize Maduro and also called for a recount.

Protests erupted in Venezuelan streets in the days following the election, with several violent clashes killing eight people.

Watching from Tampa, where about 100 Venezuelans are enrolled at UT, Daher said Capriles stands for peace and the union of all Venezuelans.

Daher follows Capriles on Twitter.

"Capriles told people 'just knock on your pan — no guns,' " Daher said.

Daher said there's a struggle between social classes in Venezuela with socialists blaming rich people.

Florida is home to more Venezuelans than any other state, with a concentration in Miami.

An estimated 20,000 Venezuelans had been registered to vote in the Miami consulate when Chávez closed it in January 2012. They were reassigned to the New Orleans consulate.

Juan Pinto helped organize a bus that took 45 people from Tampa to New Orleans to vote.

Pinto, 51, lives in Wesley Chapel, which he said has become an enclave for Venezuelans. Pinto, a member of the Venezuelan Suncoast Association that formed more than 10 years ago, has unsuccessfully tried to get the Venezuelan consulate to come to Tampa to register voters.

He says the west-central coast of Florida is home to about 10,000 Venezuelans.

And although their votes were not counted in the final tally, the total international vote wouldn't be enough to tip the balance.

Shortly after the rally last week, the country's election authority agreed to review every ballot cast. Though many watching don't fully trust the process, they have not given up all hope.

"Not at all," Daher said. "Even though I know the reality. Hope is not lost."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

Tampa Venezuelans protest Chávez successor vote 04/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.