Millions of Venezuelans both at home and abroad flocked to voting centres today to take part in an unprecedented electoral process: a grassroots plebiscite to decide the future of the country.
Venezuelans were asked to answer “yes” or “no” to three questions in today’s plebiscite: 1) Do you reject Maduro’s Constituent Assembly? 2) Do you demand that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces stand up to defend the constitution and support the National Assembly? 3) Do you want the National Assembly to renew all public institutions (by appointing new officials), and do you want elections to vote for a national unity government?
So overwhelming was the turnout that voting centres around the country, which were originally slated to close at 4:00 PM, remained open well into the evening hours to allow every person who was in line by the original closing time the chance to vote.
As of the posting of this update (7:45 PM local time), all voting centres have been closed, but no official numbers on the total of ballots cast is yet available.
By 4:30 PM local time, many voting centres had run out of ballots. Vente Venezuela‘s Maria Corina Machado announced at around the time that the opposition had activated a “contingency plan” to ensure that voting centres remained stocked throughout the evening so as to allow everyone a chance to vote.
While the overwhelming majority of voting centres in the country experienced normal proceedings, a handful were attacked by pro-regime militias known locally as colectivos armados. The most severe attack took place in the Catia neighbourhood of Caracas, where a colectivo armado fired on a large crowd of eager voters, killing one and injuring three others.
Despite the success of the plebiscite, the Maduro regime remained steadfast today in its assertion that the event is illegal. The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), TIbisay Lucena, told reporters in the afternoon that the results of the plebiscite “carry no consequences” for the regime.
Millions Turn Out to Vote in Venezuela
Below, videos and images of the overwhelming turnout in the country’s voting centres today.
Cagua, Aragua state:
La Florida, Caracas:
Montaña Alta,, Miranda state:
Los Semanes, Caracas:
Los Teques, Miranda state:
Parque Carabobo, Caracas:
Parque Caracas, Caracas:
Los Salias, Miranda state:
Carabellada, Vargas state:
La Candelaria, Caracas:
Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state:
International Turnout Surprises Many
Venezuelans also turned out in impressive numbers to vote in dozens of countries across the world. Every Venezuelan citizen over the age of 18, regardless of residency status, was allowed to vote in the plebiscite.
Below, images of Venezuelans voting across the globe.
Colectivo Attack Leaves One Dead in Catia
A pro-regime militia attacked voters in the Catia neighbourhood of Caracas at approximately 2:00 PM local time, killing a woman and injuring three other individuals. The fatality was a 61-year-old woman named Xiomara Escot, who becomes the 94th person to be killed for demonstrating against the Maduro regime since April 1.
The voting day began in Catia as in did in dozens of cities across the country: with jubilant Venezuelans excited to cast their ballots in the plebiscite. The video below shows cheerful crowds in Catia moments before the shooting:
The video below shows panicked crowds of voters fleeing from colectivo gunfire. Note that on the top left of the video there is a line of National Guard soldiers and National Bolivarian Police officers who appear to stand motionless as the attack unfolds:
The video below shows the attackers (near the centre of the screen) more clearly. Note also the panicked voters fleeing into the church at the top right of the video:
Below, a short clip showing the commotion in Catia as the attack began:
The video below captured the chaos:
The video below shows the aftermath of the shooting. A woman lies motionless on the floor, but it is not clear if the body is that of Escot or of one of the injured:
Regime Forces Attack Voting Centres Elsewhere
While the attack at the Catia voting centres was the only lethal one, it was not the only instance of regime forces attacking voters today.
In Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas state, regime forces attacked two voting centres with tear gas. It’s not clear who executed the attack, but the fact that tear gas was used suggests that it may have been the National Guard:
In San Carlos, Cojedes State, police officers prevented residents from setting up their voting centre:
Early in the morning, Yaracuy state police attempted to stop residents in the town of Pilieri from exercising their right to vote:
At around noon, a voting centre in the San Agustin neighbourhood of Caracas had to be evacuated and moved to another location in Parque Carabobo after a colectivo armado showed up at the site. The colectivo threatened voters in line and stole ballot boxes, which electoral volunteers said contained approximately 300 ballots.
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