Venezuelans abroad face voting restrictions as election countdown begins (includes video story)

Daniela Martinez left her home country of Venezuela when she was 16 years old. She was too young to vote then, but now that she’s old enough to cast a ballot, she can’t. The reason? She lives in Miami and does not meet the requirements to vote abroad. 

 “It’s frustrating not being able to participate in such a crucial election,” Martinez said. “It feels really unfair that the government is basically blocking us from our right to vote.”

The results of the upcoming presidential election in Venezuela on July 28 will significantly impact the country’s democratic future as well as the large number of Venezuelans who have left their homeland. Over the last 25 years, Venezuela has been under the control of Chavismo, a socialist movement that originated with the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 and has gradually become more authoritarian. Following Chávez’s passing in 2013, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, narrowly secured the presidency; now he has been in power for 11 years.

The upcoming Venezuelan election marks the first time in over ten years that an opposition candidate has even a slight chance of winning. Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia, 74, has significant support. He is backed by Maria Corina Machado, who won the primary elections in October 2023. However, the government blocked her candidacy and declared the primary was against the law.

For many Venezuelans, there is a  sense of hope that this time, things will be different. However, the restrictions mean that many of the Venezuelan diaspora abroad won’t be able to cast their ballot. According to the Venezuelan government, only 107,000 out of the 8 million who left the country are registered to vote abroad. Just in the U.S., there are around 600,000 lost votes.

Henry Ziemer, a research associate from the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), emphasized that outlawing these votes will negatively impact Gutierrez’s candidacy more than Maduro’s.

“The regime’s approach to preventing the diaspora vote indicates that Maduro knows that these people are not his supporters,” Ziemer said.

Amelia Orjuela Da Silva is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a minor in social media and E-marketing analytics. After graduation, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field as a writer/reporter to shine a light on stories that need to be discovered.