By Elizabeth Rivera and Kitty Garden
After more than one hundred 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.
At a press conference, Carlos Ocariz, leader of the opposition plebiscite campaign, commented:
A total of 667 polling stations have been established abroad, in 602 cities across 100 countries.
This process will have various observation mechanisms, including those of national and international organizations, and international political figures.
Citizens from Saudi Arabia, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Oman were among the ones who responded to the call. Below are just some of the thousands of testimonies of Venezuelan voters throughout the world.
— La Gaceta Criolla (@LaGacetaCriolla) July 15, 2017
“The #PopularConsultation has already started in Saudi Arabia.”
— Víctor Solano (@Solano) July 16, 2017
“Long lines as thousands of Venezuelans head to the polling station for #PopularConsultation16J on the corner of 125b St and the Highway in Bogotá.”
— El Universal (@ElUniversal) July 16, 2017
“This is what the voting station for the popular consultation looks like in Santiago de Chile.”
— VladimAr Ramones (@VladimArRamones) July 16, 2017
— MANUEL AVENDANO (@ManuelAvendano) July 16, 2017
“From the farthest places, Venezuelans participate in the #PopularConsultation Chipre, Kenya, Granada.”
How's been your consulta popular experience so far? https://t.co/Vc92AEgmsg
— Caracas Chronicles (@CaracasChron) July 16, 2017
— MariJo Bendito (@GochaSuper) July 16, 2017
“In the Vatican … election party”
— Viviana Salas (@VivianaSalasM) July 16, 2017
“This is what it’s like [in Barcelona] at 3 pm. #PopularConsultation”
El punto de votación para el plebiscito más raro es Yuzhno-Sajalinsk, un pueblo ruso en una isla al norte de Japón en la costa de Siberia. pic.twitter.com/gM59JOgiAW
— LUIS PEÑA VALERO (@luispenavalero) July 15, 2017
“The strangest polling station for the plebiscite is 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 centers, 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.
Venezuelans in the country shared images of voters rejoicing in joining this democratic event.
— Maria José Morr (@Majomorr) July 16, 2017
“My great aunt exercising her right to vote in #Venezuela.”
Hoy se vivió en las calles la alegría que hace mucho no sentía el Venezolano.
Y SÍ, SÍ, SÍ Venezuela. Serás la del futuro… pic.twitter.com/FUFVsxR715
— Horacio Siciliano (@hsiciliano) July 17, 2017
“Today in the streets Venezuelans experienced a happiness they have not felt in a long time.
And YES, YES, YES Venezuela. You will be the future…
For those who are here, yes.
For those who want to return, yes.
For Venezuela, yes.
We will get you back, together.
There are more of us good guys.”
In this video, a man explains that he exchanged his clothes with a female friend because she did not want to go to vote in a short dress.
Lo mejor que he visto hoy! Jajajaja
Los venezolanos son únicos pic.twitter.com/HOiAwGH586
— Zuleika MN ✨ (@ZuleikaMN) July 16, 2017
” The best thing I’ve seen all day! Hahahaha
Venezuelans are unique
Woman: Why are you looking so beautiful?
Man: Because the girl I was with on my way here said she wasn’t going to come and vote because she was wearing a short dress, and I said “I’ll swap you that dress, and let’s go and vote!” and I gave her my clothes and she gave me the dress.
Woman: With a flag and everything, bravo! Welcome!
Man: For a new Venezuela, for a beautiful Venezuela, for a Venezuela that will go far… like we were before, free! Freedom! That’s all I’m going to say today. We’re all going to celebrate, it’s going to be nothing but a party from now on, there won’t be enough beer, there won’t be enough aguardiente…”
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 p.m. 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 center. 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.
Amenazaron de muerte a un pueblo, le disparan a sus hijos, matan gente con escasez.
Y la Venezuela civil responde con vida en las calles. pic.twitter.com/7SaOnX8LE8
— Luis Carlos Díaz (@LuisCarlos) July 16, 2017
“They threaten people with death, they shoot at their children, they kill those who have the least. And civic Venezuela responds with life in the streets.”
Preliminary results were announced at around midnight, VST.
ÚLTIMA HORA | VIDEO – MUD anuncia resultado oficial de la Consulta Popular:
En Venezuela: 6.492.381
En el Exterior: 693.789
Total: 7.186.170 pic.twitter.com/FDRBNhHwMD
— AlbertoNews (@AlbertoRodNews) July 17, 2017
“BREAKING NEWS | VIDEO – MUD announces official result of the Popular Consultation:
In Venezuela: 6,492,381
Various citizens quickly expressed their congratulations online for the success of the process.
Logramos esto en 2 semanas de organización y con 7 veces menos mesas que en un proceso electoral regular.
Somos demasiado arrechos. pic.twitter.com/oadKyvJppA
— Ricardo Del Bufalo (@RDelBufalo) July 17, 2017
“We achieved this with 2 weeks of organization and 7 times fewer booths than in a regular electoral process.
We’re on fire.”
Regarding the consultative exercise, the digital portal El Chigüire Bipolar reflected in a post called “Country perfectly capable of functioning without dictatorship:”
It also demonstrated that we are deeply democratic, right? Check your Instagram to see: wherever we may be, we Venezuelans just want to vote. To vote, even in the most difficult conditions. Even when we have to organize the elections ourselves. To vote and vote, even if the government denies us the right.
Featured image: Flickr
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