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Opinion and Analysis

Eyewitness Report: Venezuelans Brave Opposition Violence to Vote

On July 30, Venezuela celebrated the elections for the National Constituent Assembly, despite the road blockades, the besieging of more then 200 electoral centers, bombings and violent protests by sectors of the opposition who called to sabotage this controversial electoral process. Though many polling centers were able to maintain their electoral process in complete normality, many Venezuelans overcame all fears with heroic demonstrations: waiting in long lines in alternative polling centers opened by the National Electoral Council for voters in areas of conflict, such as the stadium ¨Poliedro¨ in Caracas, some crossed barricades on foot and even rivers in order to exercise their right to vote, resulting in the remarkable voter turnout of more than 8 million voters.
 
There are many indicators that the large voter turnout in part was due to a a reverse reaction to the violence instigated by the opposition since April of this year.  María J. Berrío, candidate to the constituent assembly who after casting her vote in an electoral center that was violently attacked the night before, told Venezuelanalysis that,  "Since 7 in the morning, the people have shown up to vote, without fear.”
 
Condemning the opposition, she said, “Violence can never be the way in Venezuela to resolve conflicts, to confront our differences in ideas and politics. I am very happy to see that the people are responding to this call for peace." 
 
Another voter said, "It [voting] is the only way that we can stop this chain of hatred, because they [violent protesters] are destroying what has been built, and what we want is tranquility and peace…"
 
Elizabeth Gonzalez, a PSUV activist, said she voted to demonstrate "…to the world that we are a free, sovereign and democratic country” in response to the criticism and threats reiterated by the government of the United States and allied countries.  
 
Other voters, like Maribel Luca, cast their vote to push forward proposals and a political agenda for the ANC. "We want to include the system of missions, the communal councils and communes…to give power to the young people as well as the culture and ethnicity, and [guarantee] the preservation of our ecological system…"
 
The voting process came to a close well into the evening hours. In Caracas, anxious and energetic voters gathered in the Plaza Bolivar to await the first results from the National Electoral Council.  However, only certainty is that this electoral process marks only the beginning of a whole new chapter for Venezuela. Maria J. Berrío reminds us that…"from here will we build the proposals  for the constituent assembly… It [the constituent assembly] will not be 500 people who decide for the rest of society…we have that mandate from here on out… discuss, debate and make sure our proposals arrive at the national constituent assembly.”