The Venezuelan people's vote of rebellion

The Venezuelan people's vote of rebellion


In 2009, Venezuelans turned out en masse against a different referendum, one that abolished term limits for the president. Photo by Andrés Azpurua (andresAzp) on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license

CARACAS, Venezuela — After more than 100 consecutive days of popular protests, Venezuelan opposition and civil society groups organized a ‘plebiscite’, a popular referendum challenging the official Constitutional Assembly that President Nicolás Maduro has convened for July 30, 2017.

The July 16 referendum posed three questions:

1. Do you reject and refuse to recognize the formation of a Constitutional Assembly as proposed by Nicolás Maduro without the prior approval of the Venezuelan people?

2. Do you demand that the Armed Forces and all public officials obey and defend the 1999 Constitution and support the decisions of the National Assembly?

3. Do you approve the renovation of public powers as established in the Constitution, and the holding of free and transparent elections as well as the formation of a government of national unity to reinstate constitutional order?

In total, 7,676,894 Venezuelans voted in the referendum, and results showed overwhelming support for the “yes” side.

Any Venezuelan of 18 years of age or older could vote, whether in the electoral register or not, and regardless of current country of residence.

A total of 667 polling stations were established abroad, in 602 cities across 100 countries.

Citizens from Saudi Arabia, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Oman were among the ones who responded to the call.

The strangest polling station for the plebiscite was Yuzhno-Sajalinsk, a Russian town in an island to the north of Japan on the Siberian Coast.

In Venezuela, the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD, Democratic Unity Roundtable) installed 2,030 polling centres, 14,404 voting booths and accredited 42,272 polling officials throughout the country. In addition, they had more than 80,000 volunteers, according to a statement from Carlos Ocariz.

Former presidents from four Latin American countries were in Venezuela to participate as international observers of the process including Colombia’s Andrés Pastrana, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, and Bolivia’s Jorge Quiroga.

The president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, stated that non-government organizations like Transparencia Perú (Transparency Peru), Alianza Cívica de México (Mexico’s Civic Alliance) and Participación Ciudadana (Citizen Participation) of Ecuador were also present as observers.

But it wasn’t all happiness on this day of civil disobedience. In Catia, Caracas, a traditionally chavista area, voters were surrounded by armed people. Before 4 pm Venezuelan Standard Time (VST), militias aligned with Nicolás Maduro’s regime shot at voters. A nurse, Xiomara Escot, was killed in the attack, and at least three other women were injured. Journalist Luis Olavarrieta was also kidnapped, and was later found beaten at a medical centre. The street where the incident took place emptied out, but some people decided to go to nearby areas to vote in spite of the threats.

Preliminary results were announced at around midnight, VST.

This article written by Elizabeth Rivera, translated by Kitty Garden originally appeared on Global Voices on July 18, 2017