Op-Ed

International community can make Venezuelans’ vote more than just symbolic

A woman shouts in the street during one of the many anti-Nicolas Maduro regime protests this year in Caracas.
A woman shouts in the street during one of the many anti-Nicolas Maduro regime protests this year in Caracas. AP

More than 100,000 Venezuelan expats came out to vote in South Florida Sunday in a hastily arranged election that officially means nothing — but which could end up meaning a lot if the international community is paying attention.

In Venezuela and in expat communities around the world, opposition organizers say 7.6 million Venezuelans sent a message to socialist President Nicolás Maduro: Do NOT rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.

“If we let this happen, it’s the end,” said Daniela Ortigoza, a 25-year-old accountant who voted at a site set up in Coral Gables at the University of Miami.

Ortigoza came to the United States last year after graduating from college in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and each month she sends food, money, and medicine to her family there because Venezuela’s oil-rich economy has collapsed under socialist rule. She said Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution means “the end” because the socialists will likely create a Marxist-style dictatorship.

“Right now they control almost everything,” said Ortigoza, wearing a cap emblazoned with Venezuela’s flag. “So with that they’re going to control absolutely everything. Everything. I mean, you live over there now and you’re scared every day.”

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