But courtesy of activists of Voluntad Popular this may start to change some. The first item is reported in El Universal today is an interview with Carlos Suaréz who, tired of all the troubles he and others experienced to register, decided to take actions. It took form as a law suit, and unbelievably it worked. Well, half way, as the regime owned justice accepted to at least study the issue, ruling on it eventually.
The issue is quite simple on a legal point of view:
- In Venezuela to register for vote, or change address, you just need to show your valid ID. Your address, new or old, is accepted at face value, in good faith (which incidentally has caused lots of trouble as that leniency has helped balloon the voters rolls opening it to all charges of electoral fraud; but that is another story).
- But try to register outside of Venezuela and the article 124 of the electoral law has consulates demand that you prove your legal residency status overseas, which proof when offered is of a validity decided by whatever bureaucrat mans the consulate where you apply.
- Thus there is an active act of discrimination: Venezuelan citizens at home are treated differently than Venezuelans overseas.
- As such the plaintiffs are demanding that article 124 is stricken down from the law, fast enough so that Venezuelans overseas have time to register for next October.
Since there are some, likely chavistas, who might find the issue silly, allow me to finish this post detailing a little bit the whole story behind this issue.
First, besides being unfair, requesting residency is ridiculous. For example someone for many reasons could need to spend three months a year in Miami from November to January, a time where usually important elections take place in Venezuela. That person may exert its activities in Miami without being a resident and decide to register there so as not to miss important votes even if in exchange that person may forfeit voting on local elections.
Still not convinced? Well, allow me to present my own case. I vote at the French embassy in Caracas, having a double citizenship. The embassy does not know, did not ask where I live. They just satisfied themselves with a mailing address, my POBox, so they can mail me election material. And under no obligation, just for my convenience. PERIOD.
Still doubtful? Then according to that article 124, were it to be fair, my registration in Yaracuy for Venezuelan elections should be questioned as I do not spend 6 months a year there. With travel, work, holidays and what not I could request to vote in Caracas through which I must usually go. In fact I moved my registration to San Felipe years ago because that is where I am the more likely to be the first two weeks of December! Otherwise I could still be voting in El Cafetal.
Second, the whole reason behind demanding such harassing paper work is elsewhere (if it were a mere utility bill or bank statement one could still make a case for that but some consulates demand much more, more expensive to get, more difficult). The real reason here is that Venezuelans over seas have had to leave because of Chavez policies (economic, political, security, etc...) and they are pissed at him. And those who left before Chavez came to power can see how the country is degraded even further and how unlikely it is they will able to return someday. The few known electoral results speak for themselves:
- The last result, of 2010, give 75% for the opposition and a mere 16% for Chavez.
- In 2006 it was 75% for Rosales and 24% for Chavez
- In 2004 it was 89% against Chavez with 30K votes, the record to date.
Needless to say that with an expected closer than usual vote expected in 2012 and more Venezuelan outside today than at any time, Chavez does not want to deal with a potential 50,000 gap overseas.....
I do not know, nor I am very optimistic that the issue will be settled in favor of Venezuelans overseas. A second item of Voluntad Popular just came out as I typed this entry so maybe this is starting to get some notice. Then again it is possible that in the aftermath of Lopez big win at the IACHR, a sentence that the Venezuelan High Court is at a loss to fully annul, chavismo may decide to be cautious and let this one go, annulling article 124. Think about the international scandal if for the second time a Voluntad Popular political initiative is squashed at home and must end up in the IACHR docket, for an issue that no democracy would tolerate!
Voluntad Popular is now seen more and more as the Human Rights group of Venezuela and thus if you are overseas and experience trouble to register I suggest that you write to their main mail and report your case asking for help: email@example.com And pass it to your friends and relatives outside of Venezuela. We need to vote as many of us as possible!!!!!