Venezuelans head to New Orleans to vote

Miami-based Venezuelans to vote Sunday in presidential election


DORAL, Fla. – About 250 Venezuelans living in South Florida began heading to New Orleans to vote in their country's first presidential election on Sunday.

Members of the group Voto Donde Sea were making final preparations on Friday as their charter buses rolled into a park in Doral.

"We need a change," said Maria Verde, a school teacher.

Verde said she will be voting for Henrique Capriles, who is running against President Hugo Chavez. Like many, she has grown frustrated with Chavez's rule.

"My country is not my country it used to be. We are completely divided -- brother against brother," said Verde. "The infrastructure is completely dilapidated."

Earlier this year, Chavez closed the country's consulate in Miami after a Venezuelan diplomat was expelled, accused of plotting against the U.S. Then, the Venezuelan government said Miami-based voters would have to vote in New Orleans, which is about 900 miles away.

That prompted Vanessa Duran, a 22-year-old University of Miami graduate, to take action.

"I have a passion. I have a dream. I have a Venezuela that I dream of," said Duran. "We negotiated with the companies to get a discount."

Duran organized enough donations to cover the cost for those who couldn't afford it. Others, like Verde, are paying $140.

"I think this an example to my students," said Verde. "When you have the privilege to vote, you need to exercise that right than you can't complain."