Several Venezuelans, who have lived in T&T and are now back in their homeland, remain divided on the referendum that Venezuela held on Sunday.
Venezuelans went out to vote in a referendum that asked them if the Essequibo region, which presently constitutes two-thirds of Guyana, should be incorporated into Venezuela.
Some 20,694,124 Venezuelans were registered to vote in the referendum.
Voting centres were expected to close at 6 pm. However, voting was extended for two hours. Venezuelan authorities are expected to release the final number on how many Venezuelans voted or how they voted to the five questions posed on Sunday.
Although Venezuelan authorities remained tight-lipped about voting tendencies up to the time voting stations closed last night, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek Saab praised the voting process as easy and transparent.
Guardian Media spoke to Venezuelans in Venezuela by phone about their thoughts on the referendum during and after the voting process.
Adelaida Davila, a hairdresser who spent five years in T&T working, and returned to her native City of Maracay in 2022, said she did not vote because the government was using the referendum as a distraction.
“I did not vote because this is a government trap. They want to suspend the 2024 elections because they know they can lose. That is not the way to recover our territory. Furthermore, why now, after so many years?”
Jesus Ballesteros, a teacher who lives in the Venezuelan state of Lara and who has also visited T&T, is a staunch government supporter. He said it was his patriotic duty to go out to vote.
“I voted because of our commitment to defend the Essequibo region, which is Venezuelan. The electoral process continues to surge ahead, with an unprecedented turnout that has surpassed all expectations,” Ballesteros said.
The referendum took place despite a ruling by the judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last Friday, which ordered Venezuela to refrain from taking any action that would alter the situation on the ground in a potentially oil-rich territory that is the subject of a border dispute with Guyana, which controls the area.
The court did not expressly forbid Venezuela from going ahead with yesterday’s referendum over its rights to the region around the Essequibo river, as Guyana has requested.
At 6 am yesterday, President Nicolás Maduro exercised his right to vote at the Simón Rodríguez School in Caracas. After voting, he spoke to reporters and justified the referendum.
He said, “It is the first time, in 150 years of fighting for what is ours, for Guayana Esequiba, that the doors of the electoral centres are opened to consult the absolute opinion of the owner of sovereignty, to exercise absolute sovereignty.”
To enable the consultative referendum, Venezuela’s electoral body, the National Electoral Council (CNE), set up 28,027 polling stations, distributed in 15,857 voting centres.
In addition, more than 131,000 polling station witnesses were accredited. They had the responsibility of ensuring the transparency of the electoral process.
Not only did government supporters vote, it also saw the participation of Venezuelans who usually support opposition political parties and their leaders because Venezuelans’ stance on the issue crossed party and ideological lines.
Juan Carlos Alvarado, secretary general of one of Venezuela’s oldest parties, the Christian Social Party (COPEI), voted in the referendum. Manuel Rosales, the opposition governor of Venezuela’s largest state, Zulia, also voted the referendum.
Party (COPEI), voted in the referendum.
Manuel Rosales, the Opposition Governor of Venezuela’s largest state, Zulia, also voted in the referendum.
The five questions asked
Venezuelan citizens answered yes or no to five questions that were unanimously approved by the CNE and subsequently endorsed by Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ).
The five questions were:
1. Do you agree to reject, through all legal means, the fraudulent imposition of the Paris Arbitral Award of 1899 that seeks to deprive us of our Guayana Esequiba?
2. Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only valid legal instrument to achieve a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Guayana Esequiba?
3. Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognising the jurisdiction of the International Court of Territorial Justice to resolve the territorial dispute over Guayana Esequiba?
4. Do you agree to oppose, through all legal means, Guyana’s attempt to unilaterally assert control over the ocean pending delimitation, illegally and in violation of International Law?
5. Do you agree with the creation of the state of Guayana Esequiba and the implementation of an accelerated plan for the comprehensive care of the current and future population of that territory, including, among other things, granting citizenship and Venezuelan identity cards?