The Venezuelan consulate in Miami faces closure causing Venezuelan voters in Florida to travel 1,727 miles round trip from Miami to New Orleans to vote in the October 7 presidential election.
If the mountain doesn’t go to them, they will go to the mountain.
In a major effort to get Venezuelans voters in Florida to vote in the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election, a not-for-profit group called Venevox Foundation has taken matters into their own hands, raising funds to transport Venezuelan voters meant to vote in Miami to their new polling place in New Orleans.
Venevox was created in June, in unison with a fundraising initiative called AeroVotar. Venezuelan law permits Venezuelans living abroad to vote in elections back home. However, this summer, the Venezuelan government decided to change the Florida polling location ahead of the October 7 presidential election in the South American country, given that its consulate in Miami was shut down in January.
Andres Casanova and a childhood friend, Andres Morrison, created Venevox Foundation and AeroVotar.
“Everything was born because we are 19,542 people that were affected by the government’s decision to move our polling place so far,” Casanova told VOXXI. “We find ourselves with the obligation and the necessity to create an initiative that could help many Venezuelans that find themselves in this situation, particularly the elderly, the disabled.”
“There are many situations and people that, due to their job or time constraints, don’t have the capacity to go to New Orleans.”
The consulate was closed after the consul was declared persona non grata by the American government, and due to “increased threats toward consulate staff” there, according to the embassy in Washington. That created a problem, since the 36,915 registered Venezuelan voters in the United States have to vote in one of the eight consulates Venezuela has here—in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco or San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Now, the 19,542 Venezuelan voters relying on that consulate—who make it the Venezuelan consulate with the most registered voters in the world—must travel a distance of 1,727 miles round trip if they decide to make the drive from Miami to New Orleans for the October 7 presidential election.
” We are transporting 557 voters in three charter airplanes” said Casanova,”Our goal is 1,114, we collect our funding from crowdfunding, a transparent platform for small collaborations. ”
“Since the beginning, we knew it was going to be a problem for Venezuelans to vote, but we wanted to provide part of the solution for the concerned citizens.”
The response to the program has been “incredible,” according to Casanova.
“The stories are very touching,” he told VOXXI. “Personally, we have received the support of many people, not only Venezuelans but people from different parts of Latin America, people that feel they can identify with us, moved by this abuse from the Venezuelan government.”
Venezuelan voters need assistance to travel from Miami to New Orleans
So far, AeroVotar has raised enough money to transport 557 Venezuelan voters, but organizers have not quite gotten halfway to their first goal of raising $380,000. That first goal would fund travel for 1,114 Venezuelan voters. Casanova said that they will continue to raise money up until the last minute. So far, they have gotten requests from about 3,000 voters.
A similar initiative comes with the website demiamipaneworleans.com, put together by the Se Habla Venezolano Foundation in Miami, although the transportation options they list are funded by the voters themselves, not through donations.
“All presidential elections are important for any country, because the citizens express their desire, in the case of Venezuela, of whether they want to stay with the same government they have had for years or give a chance to a new person,” Casanova said.