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Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- Outside the convention center Sunday, there was a large celebration of optimism from thousands of Venezuelans who hope to make a difference in that country's historic presidential election.

They sang songs from the homeland, cheered and waved flags, but most importantly, they're in town to take part in the democratic process.

With the Venezuelan consulate in Miami closed, natives of that country who would have cast ballots there were instructed to vote in New Orleans.

Officials estimate more than 7,000 people made the trip.

Anais Loreto drove a motorcycle all the way from Miami.

'This is amazing. There's a lot of people here. Wow,' she said. 'I just want to cry, you know. Looking at all the people trying to make a difference for Venezuela, trying to make a change.'

The change a majority of the crowd seeks is an end to the 13-year reign of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Hopes are high that, with the help of their ballots, challenger Henrique Capriles will emerge victoriously.

'There is a lot of optimism and I think it will be a change, because millions of people are voting for the other party, and I think he's going to win,' said Luigi Boria, a Venezuelan native who now serves as a councilman in Doral, FL.

Jose Unamuno, who traveled from Orlando, agreed.

'14 years waiting for this moment -- democracy. We're waiting for that and we need it,' he said.

But, no matter the outcome, the proud Venezuelans who descended on New Orleans this weekend did their part to help the country they love.

'We feel great. For all Venezuelan citizens,' Unamuno said.

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