MIAMI – Venezuelan democrats were asking their compatriots to vote Sunday in an election that the Venezuelan socialists view as illegitimate.
At the center of the political conflict is the 1999 constitution, which gives power to the democratically-controlled Parliament on important decisions such as whether or not to sell state assets to foreign countries and key government appointments.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, released a statement encouraging Venezuelans to vote in the referendum. He believes it has the power to send a message to the Venezuelan government.
Almagro said Parliament is "the last legitimate power elected by the Venezuelan people."
The Venezuelan democrats say they are protecting the system of checks and balances used to keep President Nicolás Maduro's socialist regime from getting too powerful. They fear a Cuban dictatorship is slowly taking hold in Venezuela.
The ballots for the plebiscite will ask voters whether or not they want the constitution to be rewritten; whether or not the armed forces should be defending the existing Venezuelan Constitution and Parliament; and whether or not there should be immediate elections.
The referendum is a response to Maduro's efforts to rewrite the constitution in a process the government refers to as the "Constituent for Peace." The democrats fear the July 30 constitutional convention that he set up will place the government loyalists who Maduro trusts.
The assembly, which will have the power to change the electoral system and reduce the role of Parliament, will have more than 520 members. Their draft of the constitution will require a popular vote to be established.
Public rage continues to fuel street protests against Maduro amid an inflation rate that has hit the all-time high of 800 percent. Students have taken to the streets with Molotov cocktails and reports of the National Guard abusing its power while repressing the protests continue.
Authorities linked 94 deaths to the protests that began when the Supreme Court tried to take power away from Parliament.
Critics of the socialist party blame the food and medicine shortage on public corruption. Parliament opened an investigation in June on a food government program. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said June 14 that they were working on a "robust list" of Venezuelans linked to corruption rackets.
While the country is on the brink of civil war, Maduro is even losing the support of some loyalists who supported his predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Former police officer Oscar Perez, the 36-year-old fugitive who stole a helicopter and attacked government buildings, was asking Venezuelans on Thursday night to join him in his dissent.
"The true way to pay respects to those who have died is for this dictatorship to fall," Perez said at a vigil in Caracas before fleeing on the back of a motorcycle.
Here is a list of the voting centers in South Florida:
DORAL: Urbe University Doral: 2550 NW 100th Ave.
DORAL: Miami-Dade College - West Campus: 3800 NW 115th Ave.
CORAL GABLES: Watsco Center University of Miami (formerly Bank United): 1245 Dauer Drive.
AVENTURA: Vladimir Issaev School of Classical Ballet: 15939 Biscayne Blvd.
FORT LAUDERDALE: War Memorial Auditorium Fort Lauderdale: 800 NE 8th St.
WESTON: Cypress Bay High School: 18600 Vista Park Blvd.
WESTON: Bonaventure Club Resort & Spa: 250 Racquet Club Road.