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Thousands plan voting trip to N.O.

1st October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

New Orleans has long been touted as the Northernmost city in the Caribbean. On October 7, it will serve as the voting site for roughly 20,000 citizens of another Gulf of Mexico country, Venezuela. This influx comes because the Venezuelan Consulate in Miami was closed earlier this year, affecting an estimated 200,000 Venezuelans living in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to The Miami Herald.

The official reason for the consulate’s closure was the expulsion of Consul Livia Acosta, who was expelled because, while working in Mexico, she discussed the possibility of cyber attacks on the United States with Iran. The allegations were made in a documentary called “The Iranian Threat,” aired by Spanish-language broadcaster Uni­vision. This prompted an FBI investigation, which led to Acosta’s expulsion. Critics charge that Chavez is anti-democratic and stifles dissent.

The Miami Herald reported in April that it had obtained documents from sources in Venezuela demonstrating that the closure of the consulate was a way for President Hugo Chavez to vex Venezuelans living in Miami. There is a great deal of anti-Chavez sentiment among Venez­uelans in Miami.

Chavez has become a symbol for leftists because of his pro-poor policies and nationalization of his country’s oil and gold wealth. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Venezuela has the second-largest reserves of oil and gas in the Western Hemisphere. Chavez’s moves for government control of the country’s oil and efforts to coordinate price levels with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries made him unpopular in Washington. He survived a coup attempt in 2002 and maintained power thanks to support from the military. Chavez has charged that the U.S. supported the attempt.

Chavez is up for re-election on October 7, running against challenger Henrique Capriles. According to a press release issued by opposition representatives, voting in New Orleans will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in the lobby of Hall A. A web site associated with Capriles sustains that New Orleans will be the largest voting site for Venezuelans in the world. The Venezuelan Consulate in New Orleans did not respond to phone calls or an in-person request for information about the vote.

This article was originally published in the October 1, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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