Venezuela’s opposition hopes for strong participation in the country and around the globe in unofficial elections Sunday, intended to send a strong message condemning President Nicolás Maduro’s plans to rewrite the constitution.
Venezuela’s president has called for a July 30 vote to elect a special assembly that would make changes to the 1999 constitution. Opposition leaders, who now control Congress, say these changes would give Maduro more power. While Sunday’s vote has no legal impact since it’s give not sanctioned by the government, the opposition sees it as an important symbol against Maduro.
— Geraldine Cols A (@geraldinecolsa) July 16, 2017
— Melissa Adan (@MelissaNBC6) July 16, 2017
A coalition of opposition parties have set up thousands of polling places in Venezuela and 80 countries, from the United States to the Middle East and New Zealand. Voters will answers three “yes or no” questions on whether they reject the constitutional assembly, want the armed forces to back congress and support the formation of a government made up of supporters and opponents to Maduro.
On social media and under the hashtag #HoyElPuebloDecide, people were posting videos and photographs of long lines of people waiting to vote.
Participating in the vote is important, said Maibe Ponet, 42, who was getting ready to vote in New York City.
“For Venezuelans living abroad, today’s vote is an expression of solidarity for our fellow Venezuelans who have been in the streets for more than 100 days fighting for their basic rights,” said Ponet. “But it’s also an expression of extreme frustration against the government of Maduro; enough is enough. There is no way back, this movement must continue until the government acknowledges our requests.”
Martha Power Pérez voted in a polling station in Doral, Florida.
“People have to know that the majority of people want change and we need this change for Venezuela,” said Power Pérez. “We are going against the president in changing the constitution.”
The Venezuelan government has blasted Sunday’s unofficial vote, saying the opposition is “fooling their own people,” according to Vice President Diosdado Cabello.
The Maduro government is sponsoring its own exercise on Sunday in preparation of the July 30 vote.
But the Associated Press reports that the head of the Justice First opposition party, Edinson Ferrer, said he didn’t expect violence between government supporters and opponents since the voting sites were not close.