Alongside other Georgetown students, Figueredo traveled all the way to Venezuela to cast his vote in his country on Sunday. Other students went to the Venezuelan Embassy on 30th Street NW.
The results were announced that same evening on Sunday, with President Hugo Chavez winning back the seat he has held since 1999. “We lost this past Sunday, but we will not lose our country… There is a better future ahead, and as young Venezuelans we will never stop working for it,” Figueredo wrote in an email to Vox.
Chavez’s challenger, Henrique Capriles, developed a strong support base over the years. In D.C., Capriles received 94.35 percent of the total votes, while Chavez won 4 percent. Approximately 2,200 voters registered for the elections. Total votes collected and counted at the Embassy was 1,665, according to Alessia Apostolatos (COL ’14), who volunteered at the Venezuelan embassy during the elections.
Voters came from as far as Florida and Ohio to vote at the Venezuelan Embassy, helping voters from the United States account for about 1 percent of total Venezuelan electorate. Apostolatos was part of a larger volunteer group that organized transportation, ensured safety, collected voter information, and counted votes for the native Venezuelans.
“Capriles is in fact the presidential candidate that has lost the elections with the greatest number of votes in Venezuela’s history,” she wrote in an email. “President Chavez, despite his electoral opportunism including the broad control of media and the use of public funds to backup his campaign, was only able to consolidate his electoral base but not substantially increase it…Henrique Capriles Radonski has become a national leader.”
Another student, Laura Cappelin (COL ’15), flew to Venezuela for the weekend to cast her vote. Cappelin spent the entire summer working for the Capriles campaign.
“It was a very intense experience. I was especially optimistic about these elections,” she wrote in an email. “It’s a fact that a majority of the population voted for Chavez. However, it is also a fact that yesterday Capriles had more votes than any other opposition candidate has had since Chavez got to the presidency 14 years ago.”
Figueredo argued that while the election results may have been fair, the Chavez campaign employed unfair tactics to increase his support base. “Chavez used state resources to outspend Capriles, and used the media at his discretion to broadcast his messages,” he wrote.
Young Venezuelans in the United States have a significant influence on politics in their home countries. Just as students like Cappelin and Figueredo return to work on campaigns or cast their votes, the Venezuelan students at Georgetown work through non-profits like Construyendo Innovando Motivando Avanzando as well as the Latin American Student Association at Georgetown to continue the struggle.
Photo by Rebecca Anthony