Venezuela’s National Electoral Council decided not to open a voting center in Miami for presidential elections Oct. 7, forcing voters registered in the U.S. Southeast to travel about 670 miles (1,072 kilometers) to New Orleans.
The CNE, as the council is known, said in a statement that the decision came after the Miami consulate was closed this year. President Hugo Chavez ordered the closing of the consulate in January, after the U.S. expelled the Venezuelan consul on espionage charges. The Miami area has the largest community of Venezuelans outside the South American country.
“A majority in the CNE decided to not open the voting center in Miami. It’s another blow to the citizens who are treated poorly by their government,” Vicente Diaz, who is the only director on the five-person electoral board affiliated with the opposition, said on his Twitter account. “To make Miami voters travel to New Orleans is an attempt at undermining the morale of a political group of the country.”
Chavez, 57, will look to extend his 13-year rule with another six-year term in the October elections. The socialist leader, who is battling an undisclosed type of cancer, will face former governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has pledged to gradually remove currency controls, fight crime and attract foreign investment by ending Chavez’s nationalization policies.
Chavez has widened his lead over Capriles to 17 percentage points, according to a survey by Caracas-based Datanalisis. Chavez had 43 percent of voter preferences, compared with 26 percent for Capriles, according to the poll taken between April 9 and 18. The poll of 1,300 people had a margin of error of 2.73 percentage points.
Capriles will lead a march of followers to register officially with the CNE tomorrow and the government is organizing a rally in Caracas on June 11, when Chavez will register his candidacy.
There are 23,000 Venezuelans living in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina who are registered to vote in Miami, Caracas-based newspaper El Nacional reported today.
“People will go to vote regardless,” Capriles, 39, said today on his Twitter account. “We’ve already told this government that looks to place obstacles in the way of the electorate, that even in Miraflores they’ll vote for Capriles,” he said in reference to the presidential palace.