Several thousand Venezuelans gathered in the heart of Little Havana on Sunday in one of a string of rallies around the world to voice their allegations of fraud in April elections officially won by President Nicolás Maduro.
Under a sea of red, blue and yellow Venezuelan flags and amid chants of “fraud,” the protesters packed a stretch of Southwest Eighth Street west of 12th Avenue while speaker after speaker denounced the balloting and its official results.
Organizers said similar protests were scheduled for the same day in more than 60 cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, San Juan, Mexico City, Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Lima, London, Frankfurt and Madrid.
Maria Conchita Alonso, the actress and singer born in Cuba and raised in Venezuela, said the rallies represented an effort by the sometimes-fractured Venezuelan opposition to show a unified front in the complaints of fraud in the April 14 election.
“This is the first time that the Venezuelan political opposition and the street opposition like myself are in agreement — that there was fraud on April 14,” Alonso, one of the organizers of the global protests, told El Nuevo Herald in Miami.
Under the late leftist President Hugo Chávez and his hand-picked successor Maduro, Venezuela has become “a Cuban colony,” she said. “And they must be driven from power in any way possible.”
Also at the Miami rally were Mayor Luigi Boria and City Manager Joe Carollo of Doral, which has a large Venezuelan population; Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; and several Cuban exile leaders and members of the Brigade 2506 that invaded the island in 1961.
The street protests were designed to highlight the allegations of fraud in the presidential vote and push demands that the Organization of American States, based in Washington, intervene to preserve democracy in the oil-producing South American nation.
Venezuela’s Chávez-friendly National Elections Council declared Maduro, a former labor leader, winner of the April presidential election by 1.5 percentage points. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles immediately alleged fraud and demanded a recount.
Maduro was inaugurated on April 19, but Capriles has continued to challenge the outcome. Venezuela’s Supreme Court last week turned down an appeal by Capriles, who then promised to take the fraud allegations to international bodies.