Venezuela closed its consulate in Miami six years ago. Last week President Nicolás Maduro issued an order to open it again. But there’s one big problem: he probably can’t.
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez closed the Miami consulate in 2012, even though South Florida is home to the largest Venezuela community in the U.S. He did so because almost all those expats opposed his socialist revolution.
Now Chávez’s socialist successor, Nicolás Maduro, says he wants to reopen the consulate so more expats can vote in the April 22 presidential election. He’s running for another six-year term.
But most Venezuelans here plan to boycott the election because they say it will be rigged by Maduro’s authoritarian regime. And because they say Maduro simply wants to use their votes to help legitimize that fraudulent outcome.
“It’s a farce,” says Yolanda Medina, who heads the expat organization VenMundo.
But even if Venezuelans here wanted the consulate to reopen, they’d be out of luck. Court records show Venezuela is facing eviction from the property where the consulate is located on Brickell Avenue. The reason: the cash-strapped government has failed to pay rent since August.
Russ Dallen, who heads the Latin American Herald Tribune in Miami, which broke the story last week, says Maduro knew about the eviction notice and will likely use it for anti-U.S. political propaganda during his election campaign.
“And now he’s going to say, ‘Oh, the gringos closed it and kicked us out. Sorry, I can’t open it,’” says Dallen.
For consular services, Venezuelan expats here will continue to have to travel to other U.S. cities like New York and New Orleans.