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Venezuelan capital a ‘ghost city’ after Chavez death

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-06

The streets of the Venezuelan capital Caracas were largely empty on Wednesday as stunned and wary Venezuelans mourned the passing of President Hugo Chavez. The government has called for seven days of national mourning.

The streets of Caracas remained largely empty on Wednesday as stunned and wary Venezuelans stayed at home following an emotional appearance by Vice President Nicolas Maduro announcing the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday evening. Caracas was turned into a “ghost city” overnight, says FRANCE 24 correspondent Simone Bruno, reporting from the Venezuelan capital.

“The situation is very calm… maybe too calm. Caracas feels like a ghost city; it’s dark, it’s lonely, there are no people in the streets,” Bruno said.

Much of Caracas was quiet overnight, with streets especially deserted in the wealthier parts of the capital. Most shops had locked their doors, for fear of looting as the news of Chavez's death spread.

“You can actually perceive a certain level of fear for what may come the next day,” Bruno said. “The streets are packed with hundreds of police that have been deployed to ‘accompany and protect’ people – that’s what Vice President Nicolas Maduro has said.”

Earlier in the evening, thousands of devastated Venezuelans briefly gathered in front of the military hospital where their president of 14 years had been treated for cancer. Mourners shouted slogans like, “La lucha sigue” (The struggle continues), a reminder of Chavez’s popularity among the poor for his leftist politics.

The death of the Latin American socialist figurehead was not unexpected, as Hugo Chavez had not been seen in public for months. Venezuelan authorities announced that the “Comandante” was facing an uphill battle against cancer after his diagnosis in June 2011. A trip to Cuba for a second round of radiation therapy in January and a return late last month for more surgery seemed to indicate that his treatment was not going as well as had been hoped.

Celebrations in Miami

FRANCE 24's Douglas Herbert analyses the death of Hugo Chavez

In contrast to the scenes of grief in Caracas, Venezuelans in the Miami suburb of Doral greeted Chavez’s death with cheers and honking horns.

“We shouldn't celebrate the death of a human being,” said Disnosca Ferran, a Venezuelan woman who migrated to the United States. “But today is the start of a new Venezuela. It's the start of a new future, a new hope. I hope this is the rebirth of Venezuela and that it will be great, as always.”

Most of the 200,000 Venezuelans living in the United States were staunch opponents of Chavez’s rule, accusing him of ruthlessly cracking down on any dissent.

And that is unlikely to change anytime soon. In death, as in life, Chavez appears set to remain a highly divisive figure.
 

 

Date created : 2013-03-06

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