Venezuelan Citizens in Miami Must Travel to New Orleans to Vote

It seems as if Hugo Chávez is going to be a vindictive, democracy-skewering bastard right down to the very end.

South Florida may have the largest concentration of Venezuelan exiles in the entire world, but Chávez's government isn't going to make it easy for them to vote in the next Venezuelan presidential election. After the Venezuelan consulate in Miami closed, the country's election board has decided not to open a voting center in Miami. That means any Miami-based Venezuelans must travel all the way to New Orleans, the closest consulate. The move reeks of voter suppression.

President Hugo Chávez closed the Miami consulate in January after the U.S. State Department decided to expel the consul general. The diplomat, Livia Acosta Noguera, was accused of having connections to a cyber plot against American nukes.

Now, Venezuela's National Electoral Council, or CNE, has decided it will not open any sort of polls in Miami or, for that matter, in the state of Florida. Which is odd, considering the vast majority of Venezuelan-Americans live in South Florida. In fact, the top 20 American cities with the densest Venezuela populations are all in Florida.

The CNE has decided that to cast a vote, local Venezuelans must travel all the way to New Orleans. That's about an 800-mile drive.

About 23,000 people were registered to vote in the Miami consulate, with the vast majority living in South Florida (though voters in Georgia and the Carolinas will also be affected). And the majority of those people live in America because they aren't exactly fans of Chávez. More than 90 percent did not vote for Chávez the last time polls were open.

Despite being stricken by cancer, Chávez has vowed to run for re-election once more. Polls will open October 7, but many observers believe Chávez might not survive until then.

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