Dozens packed into the council chambers at Doral City Hall on Monday as María Corina Machado — Venezuelan legislator and outspoken critic of her nation’s president — received the keys to the city.
Machado was a candidate for the presidency in Venezuela last year before losing in the primaries. She went on to head the campaign for Henrique Capriles, opponent of the late Hugo Chávez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro.
She praised Doral’s Venezuelan population, which is largely anti-Maduro and makes up a large portion of the city’s Hispanic community, saying that the Venezuelans who have immigrated to the United States have success because of what they’ve brought with them.
“They’ve brought not only the necessary resources and investments, but more than anything they’ve brought passion and talent,” she said.
Machado worked with presidential candidate Capriles, who lost by a narrow margin in the April 14 election. She said that post-election Venezuela was in “hard, dark times.”
“We want a nation where rule of law, separation of powers and respect for human rights exist,” she said.
Mayor Luigi Boria’s introduction of Machado drew cheers from the crowd. Having left Venezuela 24 years ago to come to the United States, he showed emotion while remembering his heritage.
“We are talented Venezuelans who have had to leave our homeland,“ he said, pausing as tears welled up in his eyes. “I’m filled with emotion because there are many who are suffering in this moment.”
Boria said he has a lot of respect for Machado, who has said she was beaten in Venezuela in an act of political retribution.
“I think she’s a brave person,” he said. “That’s something that has to be recognized.”
Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera, who was born in Cuba, said she sees parallels between her own culture’s diaspora and the movement of Venezuelans to the United States. She also noted her admiration for Machado as an example of a modern, driven woman.
“She does not wait for things to happen,” she said. “She makes things happen.”
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