Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Thousands of local Venezuelans vote in international straw poll

Neither the hot morning sun nor an afternoon storm prevented Tampa area Venezuelans from participating on Sunday in an international nonbinding straw poll opposing what they perceive as an attempt by the South American nation's president, Nicolás Maduro, to create a dictatorship.

"I may not live there anymore, but Venezuela is still my country," Albertina Harvey, who left her native country 18 years ago, said while holding a large Venezuelan flag in the parking lot. "I want to help."

Harvey, 58, was among thousands of local Venezuelans to cast votes at Are Pitas restaurant, 2734 University Square Drive, which doubled as one of five polling places in the Tampa Bay area.

An early afternoon line to vote wrapped fully around the parking lot that is about the size of a full city block.

There, they waved Venezuelan flags, wore clothing marked in the nation's tricolors and chanted against Maduro.

Some brought babies in strollers. Others needed walkers for assistance.

All were Venezuelan citizens living here temporarily or with dual U.S. citizenship.

"We expect better things for Venezuela," said Dimas Pulgar, 42, who moved from Venezuela 18 years ago. "It is time to make good changes."

On July 30, at the behest of Maduro, Venezuelans will elect 500 people to a national Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country's 1999 constitution.

Opposition parties in Venezuela are abstaining from the vote because they consider the process illegitimate and any final tally questionable.

Despite the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela is in the midst of an economic recession so severe that basic necessities are scarce. Protests against the socialist government that most blame for the struggles have turned violent.

Maduro's popularity is about 20 percent in Venezuela, but a new constitution could help keep his party in office by changing election rules — for instance, by limiting who can run for office.

So, a Venezuela opposition party and supporting lawmakers called for this international plebiscite among Venezuelans around the world to pressure a cancellation of the constitutional rewrite.

There were about 2,000 polling stations in Venezuela.

More than 90 other nations and more than 120 U.S. cities also participated.

"We were not sure what to expect," said Norma Reno, founder of Casa de Venezuela Tampa Bay, which organized the local efforts. "I am very happy this many people came out. It feels like every Venezuelan in Tampa is here."

The questions on the ballot were: Does the voter reject or recognize the call for a new constitution, believe Venezuela's armed forces should protect the current constitution and favor free and transparent elections?

Voters privately filled out ballots in cubicles. After tabulating the results, Casa Venezuela Tampa Bay faxed them to leaders of the Venezuelan opposition party.

If anyone was in favor of Maduro at the Tampa poll, they certainly weren't making that allegiance publicly known, Reno said.

"No one likes him," she said. "He is a bad person."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Thousands of local Venezuelans vote in international straw poll 07/16/17 [Last modified: Sunday, July 16, 2017 9:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fifth worker from TECO molten slag accident dies

    Public Safety

    The June 29 accident at the Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach claimed a fifth life on Thursday.

    A fifth worker died following a June 29 accident at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. Anthony Perez, 56, an employee of BRACE Industrial Group, died Thursday. [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES]
  2. Review: 'Midnight, Texas' overloads on supernatural, lacks luster

    Blogs

    There is a cemetery full of great supernatural shows out there. Unfortunately, Midnight, Texas isn't one of them.

    Parisa Fitz-Henley, center, and Francois Arnaud in Midnight, Texas.
  3. Ready to go it alone? Tips for easing into solo travel

    Travel

    Since 2012, Kristin Addis has been traveling the world. More often than not, she's solo.

    Travel author Kristin Addis takes soloness to another level at Dead Horse State Park in Utah. Before you book an international trip, try starting small to test the waters.
  4. O.J. Simpson makes case for his freedom on live TV

    Crime

    LOVELOCK, Nev. — A gray-haired O.J. Simpson went before a Nevada parole board Thursday to plead for release after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel room heist, making his case in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

    Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday.  Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. [Lovelock Correctional Center via AP]
  5. Girl says her mom asked for forgiveness before stabbing her

    Crime

    ATLANTA — Everyone was asleep when Isabel Martinez began stabbing her children and then fatally stabbed her husband as he tried seek help, her daughter told a child welfare caseworker.

    In a  July 7 file photo, Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance, in Lawrenceville , Ga. Martinez is charged with killing four of her children and their father. [AP Photo/John Bazemore, File]