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Thousands Gather In South Florida To Protest Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro

Venezuelan protesters gathered across South Florida Wednesday demanding the resignation of the current leader Nicolas Maduro - and hailing National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó's declaration that he is the country's legitimate president. They were joining protests in Venezuela and around the world demanding that Maduro stepsdown on the 61st anniversary of an uprising that overthrew dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958. 

Holding signs calling Maduro a murderer and chanting for freedom, around a hundred protesters stood outside the Venezuelan consulate in Brickell for three hours Wednesday morning. 

The Consulate was open only for emergencies, according to officers monitoring the event. 

Thousands more gathered in Downtown Doral Park beginning at 5 p.m.

“This dictator, Nicolás Maduro, his end is today," said Venezuelan exile restaurant worker Alberto Malvacia as he held one of a giant Venezuelan flag. "We have a legal president from today – Juan Guaidó. From here is freedom.”

“What we’re hoping for is that Maduro and everyone else that is supporting him will realize that they do not have the power anymore, that Venezuela is not scared to fight for it," said Cristina Sanchez, a biomedical engineering student at Florida International University who arrived here from Venezuela two years ago.

Sanchez said she believes Guaidó's declaration will accelerate Maduro's exit from power - which she said is urgent given the economic catastrophe his socialist regime has created in Venezuela.

"Now we have someone that will guide us through to democracy," Sanchez said, "and to stop this tyranny – and people dying from starvation.”

Maduro took the oath for another term in office on Jan. 10 but many countries, including the U.S., have refused to recognize him as president of Venezuela citing reports by international observers that last elections were illegitimate because opposition candidates were barred from running. 

Moments before the protest ended Wednesday morning, people began receiving notifications on their phones saying that the leader of  Venezuela's National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, was recognized by president Trump as the country's legitimate president. The crowd began cheering and singing Venezuela's national anthem. 

Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN News
Alberto Malvacia waves the Venezuelan flag while singing Venezuela's national anthem Wednesday at Downtown Doral Park Wednesday, January 23, 2019.

Andrew Quintana is a senior at Florida State University pursuing degrees in Communication Studies and Editing, Writing, & Media. Before entering WFSU's newsroom, Andrew worked with V89 Radio's News and Continuity department and interned as a staff writer for Haute Living Magazine. He enjoys Razzie nominated films and collects vinyls that are perfect for ultimate frisbee. Follow Andrew Quintana on Twitter: @AndrewLQuintana
Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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