Determined voters travel hundreds of miles to vote in Venezuelan election

Tampa surgeon flies to Venezuela to vote

TAMPA - Francisco Itriago is a husband and father of two, a Tampa surgeon who came to the United States from Venezuela.  He is also proof one person, one vote, can give hope.

"I woke up at 4:30 in the morning because I know the lines were going to be ridiculously long," he explained.

Itriago got on a plane this weekend bound for his hometown of Caracas.  Passengers waved his country's flag  proudly as they took off -- passengers who would fly hundreds of miles and wait hours just to cast a ballot.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," said Itriago.

Itriago voted for Henrique Capriles, the 40-year old who challenged President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has deeply polarized the country, promising to deepen Venezuela's socialist revolution.

"You have to let your voice be heard, otherwise you're just letting other people choose for you," said Bethsy Boggiano-Vargas.

Boggiano-Vargas made a long trip too, just to have a voice.

"My whole family lives back there. And I have nephews, nieces, you know, the young generations who deserve a better country. They deserve better," she said.

She was among thousands of Venezuelans registered to vote at the New Orleans consulate where some sang their national anthem full of hope.

Many Venezuelans question the election's integrity.  With record turnout, Chavez still took 55-percent of the vote.

"More than 6 million Venezuelans are not alone," Capriles told supporters after the election was over.

Boggiano-Vargas says her candidate's message is encouraging.

"Over 6 million people showed up and voted for a different kind of government, and that is a lot of people," she said.

And that says so much for hope.

"I feel comfortable that I went there and made my choice. You know, whoever won, but I have that inner peace that, yeah, it was not because of me," explained Itriago.

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