Freshman Veronica Lopez moved to the United States from Venezuela when she was 3 years old. In the 15 years she has lived in this country, she has visited Venezuela three times. The last time she visited was nine years ago.
“We left because my dad feared the government and what could happen,” Lopez said.
Now that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Wednesday at the age of 58, Lopez and her family have hope that the country’s government will see change.
“What means the most to me is that we can finally see our family because now we can finally go back, and I could finally go see my grandparents and see the country where I was born,” said Lopez, who is now 18.
Sophomore Yael Herman said she is happy, but surprised.
“I’m just in shock,” she said. “Most of my life he’s been the president, and I really don’t know anything different.”
Junior Alexandra Perez found out about Chavez’s death when her cousin from Venezuela sent her a text message while she was at work.
“I ran to my boss. I told her, and she went nuts. And we basically were all jumping in disbelief and amazement,” Perez said.
While some Venezuelans are pleased, junior Arianne Alcorta thinks they should instead be celebrating the new opportunities that the end of his regime brings.
“I don’t think it’s right to celebrate the death of a person,” she said. “Have respect. We should show respect to gain respect.”
Senior Martha Franco said she feels empathy for Chavez’s family and his supporters.
“Although I disagree with the way he led our country, he was a charismatic human being revered by Venezuelans who supported their cause,” she said.
Perez said that the majority of Venezuelans that she has spoken to believe that this is positive for the future of their country.
It gives everyone hope that there may be a chance to get the country back to the way it was before,” she said. “It’s the first step to hopefully a good future.”
According to Susan Purcell, director of the center of hemispheric policy at UM, the future will bring uncertainty.
“What it will mean for Venezuela is a period of some uncertainty, frankly because even though Chavez designated a crony of his own, Maduro, as the person to succeed him as a candidate in case he couldn’t run, there may be some longer term instability going forward because there are some divisions within the supporters of Chavez, and the Venezuelan economy is in very bad shape,” Purcell said.
According to the Venezuelan constitution, an election must follow 30 days after the death of the president, if the president has not been in office for four or more years into his current term. But some feel unsure of whether this will occur.
“Those who have taken control of the government of Venezuela have not followed the constitution so far, and I doubt they will respect it now,” Franco said.
Venezuelans will have to wait to see what comes next.
“He may be dead, but his followers are not,” Alcorta said.
Still, some Venezuelan students are hopeful.
“I don’t know my roots and that makes me really sad,” Lopez said. “I know that this doesn’t mean that for sure everything will get back to normal, but it really just gives us hope, and right now that’s all we need.”
Marchesa Bergman contributed to this report.