Venezuela’s opposition has voted “public consultation” to reject the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Consultations actually started on Monday and ended with personal participation on Saturday.
While 87 per cent of the responses were reviewed, the Opposition said only 6.5 million people participated. Of those, more than three million voted in person, and 2.4 million voted online. Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections.
The voting claim was not independently verified.
Seeing the Maduro-led political coalition win more than 90 percent of the seats in the legislature, the Venezuelan people were asked for consultation on whether they wanted a change of government and rejected the election results. The last state organization not in the hands of the ruling Socialist Party was the Congress.
The Maduro government says 5.2 million Venezuelans or 31 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the congressional vote.
Opposition leader Juan Guido, the outgoing speaker of the National Assembly and other top opposition parties called on the people to boycott the vote.
They allege that the process was rigorous in favor of Maduro, which resonated with Western nations that supported Guido.
Shortly before the results of the unofficial vote were announced on Saturday, Guido tweeted, “Hopes are high in Venezuela.
“We must point out the heroic people who have rallied in the country and around the world in the defense of their rights.”
Maduro downplayed the importance of consultation, calling Guido “Charlton” and the “puppet” of the United States.
“No one can believe that these internet consultations have any legal or constitutional value – only the value of the information,” Maduro said Thursday.
“I want to emphasize that this is the last resource we have in the constitution,” former Supreme Court Magistrate Blanca Marmol told a news conference, which helped the opposition conduct a popular consultation.
Organizers on Saturday reported incidents in 11 of Venezuela’s 24 states, with police and ruling party supporters clearing some opposition seats for an unofficial vote.
Mirla de Lorenzo, a 50-year-old bank employee who voted in a popular consultation in her Caracas neighborhood, said she was fed up with the situation, saying “it has brought us nothing but poverty.”
Among the relatives who fled the country was her daughter who fled to Spain and her sister who emigrated to Chile, she told the Associated Press news agency.
“You can’t compete with people who are cunning, people who use force, people who have weapons,” she said. “There’s no way yet.”
Marco Blanco, a 54-year-old taxi driver in the western Caracas neighborhood of Katia, said he was unaware of the vote.
“I heard something about a question, I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I heard, but it was very vague. Almost nothing. “
Risa Grais-Targo, a Venezuelan analyst at the Eurasia Group, said the symbolic referendum was a message to international supporters, urging them to unite the Venezuelan people who do not like Maduro.
“They have set up a process for their foreign partners from the US to the European Union and regional governments,” Grace-Targo told the AP. “Therefore they can continue to support him even when he is not in control of the National Assembly.”
U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela James Story praised the opposition survey from the Colombian capital, where he has served since the severance of US-Venezuelan diplomatic relations and the US closed its embassy in Caracas.
“The Venezuelan people are proud to vote for their right to democracy, justice and freedom,” Story tweeted. “Their voices were heard. Democracy must return to Venezuela. ”
The Maduro ruling party, meanwhile, held a ceremony Saturday in the historic center of Caracas to commemorate the victories of their National Assembly candidates, including Maduro’s wife and son. Politicians have made speeches condemning the domestic opposition and US policy interference in Venezuela. People danced while playing salsa music.
A political debate on state television on Saturday night mocked the referendum by showing mobile phone videos allegedly recorded by people who ran through survey centers in cities across the country.
“No one, absolutely no one,” said an unidentified driver. “Look, four people are standing there in a nonsensical way.”