NY Venezuelans Vote at Consulate to Keep or Boot Chavez

Venezuelans can vote in New York for Sunday’s presidential elections back home. (Photo via El Diario)

Venezuelan New Yorkers share their thoughts on the Oct. 7 elections back home when President Hugo Chavez will face his strongest challenge in 14 years in power, El Diario La Prensa reported. The article was translated from Spanish. 

“I’m voting for [Hugo] Chavez, of course. These are very important elections to defend the achievements that have been attained during these years,” said María Eugenia Mondéjar about Sunday’s presidential elections in Venezuela.

Mondéjar and her husband immigrated 10 years ago when her daughter started college but she keeps tight bonds with her homeland and is committed to doing her part and voting [at the Consulate].

The Venezuelan diaspora in New York is not as solid or as large as in other regions, particularly in Florida, explains Mondejar, surrounded by compatriots. According to the Census, in 2011 there were an estimated 15,426 Venezuelans living in New York and 7,158 in New Jersey.

In New York, though Chavismo, as support for Chavez is called, normally loses, “that doesn’t stop us,” said Williams Camacaro, known radio host, commentator, activist and founder of Círculo Bolivariano Alberto Lovera (Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Group). “We know the impact of the vote in the U.S. is insignificant.”

Mondejar said that unlike Chavez — “a leader of the masses” — opposition candidate Henrique Capriles “has no strength because he’s the candidate of the bourgeoisie. Electing him would be going backwards.”

Camacaro, who has spent almost two decades living in New York, adds: “Against the pounding of information from the opposition, we do education campaigns so people know what’s really happening in Venezuela.”

Meanwhile, a filmmaker and producer from Queens, who asked not to be identified, admitted that she was “embarrassed” that she is not interested in voting.

“This man [Chávez] has pitted people against each other but he has done good things, like social benefits that are diligently carried out, such as pensions and consumer rights,” she said.

“Being here, it is not easy to have a balanced view of what’s going on and also because there’s big issues: crime is out of control, especially kidnappings,” she added, explaining that she’s not registered to vote and has not done so since she immigrated.

Patricio Navia, an expert in liberal studies at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, highlighted the uncertainty leading to Sunday’s vote because it’s the first time in 14 years in power that Chavez has an opponent that is doing well in polls.

“It will be a tight election, which will be a warning for Chávez,” he said.

The dissimilar views expressed by people interviewed highlight the main challenge for Chavez if he is reelected: “being president of all Venezuelans,” said Navia. “It’s hard to build institutionality beyond his person… Without Chavez, the revolution doesn’t last.”

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