Venezuela Consulate Empty But Paying
By Vanessa Zambrano
The status quo remains at the third-floor office that the Venezuelan Consulate rents in Miami. Even though nobody is in the space and the consulate is not active, the Venezuelan government continues to pay for it.
Jerome Hollo, vice president of Florida East Coast Realty, said the status remains the same. "We haven’t seen them but they’re there, they continue to pay rent."
The company contacts them once in a while if it needs access to the office, he said, but doesn’t know about any plans for the future.
The Venezuelan Consulate at 1101 Brickell Ave. pulled out of Miami in February 2012. Just a year after the consulate signed a ten-year lease, then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced in January last year that he would close the diplomatic center after Miami Consul General Livia Acosta Noguera was expelled from the US following an FBI investigation over allegations that she was involved in a potential cyber attack on the US government.
After the consulate refused to pay January and February’s rent, Tibor Hollo, chairman and president of Florida East Coast Realty, said he was going to sue the Venezuelan government, but he dropped the lawsuit after it resumed paying rent in April last year.
Florida East Coast purchased 1101 Brickell from Lev Leviev’s Africa-Israel Properties and Boymelgreen Developers LLC in July 2009.
The Venezuelan Consulate occupies 7,940 square feet on the third floor at 1101 Brickell and pays just under $30 per square foot, said Brian Gale, managing director of Taylor & Mathis, the building leasing agent.
Before signing the ten-year lease, he said, the consulate had been in the building about ten years prior, which means it has about eight years left on the contract.
"We’ve received no notifications. They continue to pay, which is the most important thing," Mr. Gale said.
Venezuelans living in South Florida have protested the closure, arguing that they now have to travel to their country’s consulate in New Orleans in order to vote, renew passports or handle other matters that would require aid from the consulate. Two presidential elections have taken place since: one in October 2012 and the other in April this year. In both elections, Venezuelans in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina voted in New Orleans.
The Venezuelan Consulate in New Orleans said it could not comment as the topic was not under its jurisdiction, and the Washington, DC, Consulate had not provided comment by deadline. To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.