MIAMI – Tens of thousands of Venezuelan exiles took to the streets Saturday to protest the actions of Hugo Chavez, comparing the nation's president to Cuban leader Fidel Castro and likening his recent actions to terrorism.
About 50,000 protesters jammed into Miami's predominantly Cuban Little Havana, calling for the ouster of Chavez, whom opponents say is dissolving the country's long-standing Democratic structure. The Venezuelans were joined by Cuban-Americans and sympathizers from other Latin American nations.
"He's trying to do everything that he can to abrogate all democratic principles in Venezuela," said Miami mayor Manny Diaz, a Cuban. "That's something that we should not support."
Miami police reported no injuries or incidents of violence at the rally which stretched for about five hours.
In an effort to force Chavez from office, Venezuelan business and labor groups are in the midst of a 7-week-old strike that threatens to destroy the country's economy. Venezuela's opposition launched the strike Dec. 2 to demand that Chavez resign or call early elections if he loses a Feb. 2 nonbinding referendum on his rule.
"I don't know what to do," said protester Carla Alfonso. "I wish that I could go back to Venezuela and march with all those thousands of Venezuelans that have sacrificed their life."