MIAMI - As Venezuela prepares for the funeral of President Hugo Chavez, the possibility of a new Venezuela is bringing hope for Venezuelan natives living in South Florida.
A state funeral for Chavez attended by some 33 heads of government is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Tens of thousands have already filed past his glass-topped casket at a
military academy following a seven-hour procession on Tuesday which took his body from the hospital where he died.
Venezuela's acting president says Hugo Chavez's embalmed body will be permanently displayed in a glass casket so that "his people will always have him."
Vice President Nicolas Maduro says the remains will be put on permanent display at the Museum of the Revolution, close to the presidential palace where Chavez ruled for 14 years. Maduro says the president will lie in state first for at least another seven days.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, Venezuelans are asking that the consulate in Miami be reopened.
About a year ago, Chavez decided to close the Venezuelan consulate in South Florida that served more than 300,000 people.
Chavez did so in an election year, forcing Venezuelans living in South Florida to travel to New Orleans to vote.
Many people who made the trip say they voted against Chavez.
"We need a change," said one South Florida resident.
While they didn't get change then, they may get it now.
"I have a passion. I have a dream. I have a Venezuela that I dream of," said Vanessa Duran.
Friday is Chavez's funeral.
Instead of mourning, South Floridians are celebrating by trying to undo some of the decisions he made.
Reopening the South Florida consulate is just one of their wishes.
The decision to reopen the Venezuelan consulate on Brickell Avenue will have to be made by leaders from Venezuela and the United States.
Those who want the consulate reopened are collecting signatures, asking the U.S. State Department to do so.
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