Florida's Venezuelans Came Out In Full Force For Unofficial Vote

Pauline Gross
July 17, 2017

Mr Maduro argues that the constituent assembly is the only way to help Venezuela out of its economic and political crisis and he described Sunday's vote as "meaningless".

Sunday's almost 7.2 million participation compared with 7.7 million opposition votes in the 2015 legislative elections that it won by a landslide and 7.3 million votes for the opposition in a 2013 presidential poll narrowly won by Maduro.

The Venezuelans who participated in the plebiscite answered three questions.

David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said Sunday's results would likely rally the worldwide community even more strongly against the July 30 vote Maduro has called to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela's 1999 constitution.

The lines outside the Watsco Center at the University of Miami stretched as far as the eye could see as Venezuelans turned out in full force all across South Florida to reject the government's controversial plan to rewrite the constitution.

Some 98.3 per cent of the participants (6,384,607) backed the renewal of public powers, the holding of "free and transparent" elections and a transitional government of national unity.

The referendum was organized by activists opposed to President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution.

Archbishop Ulises Gutiérrez of Bolivar, defined Sunday as the "most important day in recent times", a day in which "the people of Venezuela expressed its will for a total change in the path the country is taking".

Calling it "a hymn to peace", Maduro said the people of Venezuela through their extensive participation in the constituent electoral process have shown that the way to solve the country's problems is through peace.

According to the opposition, the formation of the new assembly could be herald dictatorship.

In March, the Supreme Court decided it would take over the National Assembly.

US President Donald Trump said he would take

Venezuela "sent a clear message to the national executive and the world, " announced Central University of Venezuela president Cecilia Garcia Arocha, noting that 6,492,381 voted in the country and 693,789 overseas.

"Today, Venezuela stood up with dignity to say freedom does not go backwards, democracy is not negotiated", said Julio Borges, head of the opposition-controlled parliament, after the referendum results were announced early Monday.

In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for the July 30 vote.

Some have said that the "popular consultation" is illegitimate, as it lacked the backing of the state - which, instead, held its own "practice vote" for the constituent assembly that is scheduled for 30 July.

Analysts said the vote for the opposition across Venezuela and the country's far-flung diaspora was an impressive show of support.

The dry run for the Venezuela National Constituent Assembly has received an unexpectedly high turnout, reported Telesur, a state-sponsored pro-government news outlet.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council, CNE, said on Sunday that the voting exercise was particularly important to ensure that the voters can exercise their right to vote in safe conditions.

The latest fatality came on Sunday when gunmen shot a 61-year-old woman in a crowd of opposition voters in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Catia. They also voted for the armed forces to defend the current constitution.

"I signed because there's no medicine, no food, no security", she said.

The chief prosecutor's office confirmed Escot - who was a nurse - had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

"That was the fear they had of a recall referendum and for that reason prevented it", he said about the vote that was requested by the opposition and obstructed by judicial measures a year ago.

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