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Posted March 30, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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By SUSANNAH A. NESMITH | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Miami Herald

Wrapped in a Venezuelan flag, with a Cuban flag clipped to her baseball cap, Olivia Alvarez, 72, insisted Saturday that the two countries are living under equally evil dictators.

In fact, she puts Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the same category as ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
‘‘They’re terrorists and the rest of the world needs to do something about them,’’ Alvarez, from Venezuela, said at a rally in Little Havana to protest against the two Latin American presidents. “Now that we got Saddam, it’s time for Cuba and Venezuela to be freed.’‘

The protest drew a few hundred people to Calle Ocho and Eighth Avenue for speeches by Venezuelan opposition leaders and Cuban exiles.

The Venezuelan opposition is calling for the left-leaning Chávez to step down. He was briefly ousted in April 2002 but regained power and has fought efforts to hold a recall vote. The opposition claims he has used the police to stifle protest and has jailed opposition leaders on bogus charges.

‘‘The terrorists are closer to the United States than is believed,’’ said Carlos Fernandez, former head of Venezuela’s most powerful business union and an opposition leader. He went on to repeat allegations that Chávez had aided al Qaeda. Chávez denies those charges.

Fernandez, charged with treason in Venezuela for leading national strikes against the government, lives in Weston.

‘‘We tried democratic methods,’’ he said. “The tyrant, the antidemocrat Chávez closed the door on us. In Venezuela, there is no democracy. In Venezuela there is a dictatorship disguised as democracy. The international community must act before the situation becomes uncontrollable.’‘

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