Venezuelans & Cubans protest in Little Havana

Last Saturday, several hundred Venezuelan and Cuban protesters marched in Little Havana, on Calle Ocho, to protest President Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela and Fidel Castro’s rule in Cuba. They also denounced terrorism, particularly the March 11 attacks in Spain. The march was organized by the Venezuelan opposition and Cuban exile groups in Miami, groups that equate Chavez and Castro to dictatorial rulers who pose a terrorist threat to the United States and the rest of the world.

Decked out in yellow, blue and red – the colors of the Venezuelan flag – and the red, white and blue of the Cuban and American flags, the protesters shouted chants well known in Venezuela, such as “Urgent, urgent, a new president!”

Another chant, “I wasn’t paid; I came because I wanted to,” was a reference to the government allegedly paying people to attend its marches in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

Protesters carried banging pots, whistles and posters, in both English and Spanish, that read everything from “Chavez: Big fat liar” to “Bush, you’ve got a fire in your backyard.”

Venezuelan students from UM’s large Venezuelan student population enthusiastically participated in the march.

“It’s great that the community comes out to the streets [to support] democracy,” said Fabiana Paolini, sophomore and president of the newly established Venezuelan students organization, UNIVEN.

Other UNIVEN members were quick to agree.

“[The march] is excellent,” said Daniel Ochoa, sophomore, wearing a large Venezuelan flag as a cape. “Just excellent!”

“It’s really good that Venezuelans and Cubans living abroad are protesting and exercising their rights of free speech,” Andreina Castillo, freshman, said. “Even though this march is not as big as the ones in Venezuela, it’s important that we keep having them, because slowly more and more people will come. Venezuelans around the world should be able to express their discontent with the government.”

Venezuelan and Miami leaders spoke at the podium at the end of the march. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz congratulated the protesters and reminded them that it was the one-year anniversary of 75 journalists getting imprisoned in Cuba. Carlos Fernandez and Carlos Ortega, Venezuelan opposition members in exile, called out to the international community to become more aware of the situation in Venezuela.

“It’s not enough for a leader to be democratically elected,” Fernandez said, referring to the justification many international governments have given to Chavez’s rule. “[A leader] must remain within democratic parameters during his rule as well.”

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at