South Florida Venezuelans Prepare to Vote in New Orleans

Despite not knowing the exact location of where the elections will be held, Venezuelans are raising money and making travel arrangements to New Orleans.

By Maria Camila Bernal
|  Friday, Mar 29, 2013  |  Updated 8:27 PM EDT
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Venezuelan citizens living in Miami including Vanessa Dunn, holding the Venezuela flag sign, Lia Nunes, holding the Voto sign, and Joyce Sosa, clapping over the Bus sign, wait in line to vote at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012.

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This time around, Venezuelans in South Florida only have a month to prepare for the upcoming election.

They say they have to raise money and make travel arrangements to New Orleans, despite not knowing the exact location of where the elections will be held.

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“When our responsibility is going out to vote- we have to go vote,” said Doral resident Maria Eugenia Pardo, one of the leaders of De Miami Pa’ New Orleans, an organization which helps Venezuelans travel to New Orleans. “This time it’s harder because we have less time and we don’t know where we will be going, but we have to vote.”

Pardo will be driving to New Orleans along with groups from Weston, Kendall, Miami, and others. They will all drive together and as they travel north, groups form West Palm Beach and Tallahassee will also follow.

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There are more than 19,500 Venezuelan voters registered in South Florida, and although they will not all go to New Orleans, Pardo said she is doing her best to take as many people as possible.

Anselmo Rodríguez, campaign chief of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles based in Louisiana, said he is preparing for 12,000 Venezuelans from Florida and neighboring states.

“We are ready. We tell Venezuelans to prepare their bags, start their engines, and come with happiness,” said Rodríguez,who expects elections to be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the same location where they voted last October.

He said he has kept the same volunteers from the previous elections and expects more Venezuelans due to the success they had in October.

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“What we lived here was beautiful, it was an amazing experience, a small Venezuela,” Rodríguez said, despite the reelection of Hugo Chávez. “That gives Venezuelans an additional motivation this time around.”

Pardo agrees. She said she has a compromise with her native country and will do anything in her power to practice her right to vote.

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“You can’t measure our democratic compromise in kilometers,” said Pardo. “It’s a conviction that we show when we vote.”

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