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Gainesville Venezuelans Express Opposition To Maduro's Government

More than 7 million Venezuelans voted around the world Sunday to reject President Nicholas Maduro's plans for a new constitution.

Venezuela has seen more than 100 days of protests at home, and Venezuelans living abroad joined the opposition Sunday to vote on an unofficial referendum.

Maduro is seeking to change the Venezuelan Constitution and plans a July 30 vote to create a legislative superbody to rewrite the Constitution and dissolve state institutions.

In Gainesville, a polling station was set up and when voting ended at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, 1008 people had cast a ballot.

"We have a lot of Venezuelans not only in Gainesville, but also in Ocala and other areas near Gainesville.," said Emercio Ponte, a voting center volunteer. "This gives the opportunity to all the Venezuelans around Gainesville to come and exercise this political right."

Sunday's results are not binding, but they make a powerful statement of popular opinion. Of the 1008 ballots cast in Gainesville, only one was in favor of Maduro's government.

Throughout the state, there were more than a hundred thousand voters Sunday, most of them in South Florida.

"I'm honestly amazed to see how many people have shown up, I honestly didn't expect to have this many Venezuelan people in Gainesville, but I think it is important to know that we are everywhere," said Oreana Ramirez, president of the University of Florida's Venezuelan Student Association.

The paper ballots asked three questions of voters: whether they were for or against the new assembly proposed by Maduro, whether they hoped the military would support the current Consitution and whether they were in favor of golding new elections before Maduro's term ended in 2019.

"I'm very excited because we took part [in] this for the first time in the history of Venezuela," said Manuel Solorzano, Gainesville resident and voter. "This was never done before, something like this...a popular conversation."










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