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Local Venezuelans react to Hugo Chavez's death

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 11 2013 01:56:24 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 06 2013 05:35:05 AM CST

Locals react to Chavez death

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The Venezuelan government announced Tuesday the death of long time leader Hugo Chavez.

Chavez was pronounced dead at 4:25 in the afternoon Tuesday, after a battle with cancer and had not been seen by the public since mid-December. He was 58.

It's no secret that Chavez, who led Venezuela for the past 14 years, was a polarizing figure.

However, with his death, there's now an air of uncertainty on what lies ahead for the country.

Whether they're pro or anti-Chavez, Venezuelans 69News spoke with say it's a time for the country to come together.

"I can't feel happy because somebody died, but I think, in my country, I feel this is a new chance that we have," said Hector Pino, who moved to Allentown with his wife from Venezuela just two years ago.

Emilio Buitrago, president of Casa de Venezuela in Philadelphia said, "It's going to be a real challenging situation. Venezuela is a country that is divided by half: half of the people loved president Chavez and the other half did not."

Hernan Cordoba, a student at Moravian College, happened to be visiting Venezuela with his family and spoke to 69News via Skype.

Cordoba said once the news of Chavez's death was made public, there was sheer panic.

"They closed everything. People were running, rushing to be back home...they have shown that fear by going to the banks and pulling their cash out. You go to the bakeries and you see people just buying anything,” he said.

However, not everyone is certain Chavez died Tuesday afternoon, thanks to rumors that had been circulating since mid-December.

"There were a lot of comments around that President Chavez died at the end of last year but it was actually never confirmed until today in a national broadcast in Venezuela. It was announced that Chavez had passed," said Buitrago.

According to the country's constitution, Venezuela must hold elections within 30 days to elect its next president.

Chavez's funeral is scheduled to take place on Friday.