Venezuelans in US cry foul over hurdles to voting in Oct. 7 elections
Published: August 3, 2012
MIAMI (CNS) -- Against a backdrop of fear of reprisals back home, reports of human rights abuses and widespread media censorship, Venezuelan Americans in South Florida are crying foul over alleged electoral obstructions ahead of upcoming presidential elections in their homeland. Charges of betrayal and violations of international law have fueled distrust and anger among Venezuelan Americans who say that the decision by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to close a consulate in Miami earlier this year threatens to disenfranchise them. The closure -- the result of a diplomatic tit-for-tat involving the State Department -- leaves an estimated 20,000 registered Venezuelan voters in South Florida and thousands more in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina with no option but to travel to the Venezuelan consulate in New Orleans to cast their ballots if they want a say in the Oct. 7 election. Observers argued the consulate's closure was meant to punish Florida's vocal critics of the Chavez regime and to improve his chances of adding a third term to the presidency he first assumed in 1999. "This is inexcusable, not opening a voting center here in Miami," said Beatriz Olavarria, who is handling logistics for what may be a large-scale effort to transport registered voters from South Florida to New Orleans, home to the nearest Venezuelan consulate some 1,000 miles away.
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