I am a Venezuelan-born Australian who’s been living in this great country for almost eight years. In my time here I have very much embraced our great lifestyle and laid-back attitude. 

Picture: AFP

As many other Venezuelans here I find myself living the ‘Australian dream’ and have become so Australian that sometimes I even have the odd ‘whinge’ about things here like an imperfect public transport and even government taxation, even though some of these would seem quite pedestrian when compared with what’s going on back in my country of birth. 

But this month I have what could be my last chance to make Venezuela a place of only petty problems, much like Australia may seem.

On Sunday, October 7th 2012, Venezuela, a country of just under 30 million people, located at the top of the South American continent, will hold a general presidential election.  The successful candidate will only hold the position for a 6-year term but this election will in fact determine the fate of the country for the next 50 years.

Incumbent President, Hugo Chavez, is a former army commander who led a failed military coup in 1992 against the democratically elected government of the time. He briefly served jail time for his actions before receiving a pardon and, in a bizarre turn of events that only seems possible in a third world country, went on to run for and win the 1998 election by a landslide. After 14 years in power he is seeking his second re-election to impose his Cuban-style “socialist, Bolivarian revolution”.

During Chavez’s rule, Venezuelans have seen their country collapse with horrific street violence, a dramatic rise in murder rates, astronomical inflation rates, blatant corruption and mishandling of public funds, the destruction of an oil and gas industry that was once the envy of the world, and the collapse of the national power grid and utilities to a point where blackouts have become part of the daily routine.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, “el flaco” or the “slim one”, as he’s affectionately known within Venezuela’s opposition, is a young, energetic and charismatic politician (and most importantly, a civilian) who has not only diminished fears about the secrecy of the vote, but also challenged Chavez’s iron-fist rule and actual chances of continuing in power.

After serving terms in Congress, then as Mayor of a large area of “Greater Caracas” and most recently Governor of one of Venezuela’s largest states, Capriles has shown a rather refreshing style of leadership with inclusion, justice and reconciliation as the main priorities, which has suddenly resurrected a sense of hope in Venezuelans, home and abroad.

Venezuelans have had to face and live an incredibly sad division amongst themselves, where, thanks to Chavez’s ideological warfare, even families have been torn apart, forced to “take sides” with one or the other. You either support the “comandante” or you are an “escualido” (Spanish for squalid), one of the many derogatory terms Chavez has introduced to refer to his opponents, so as to suggest they are worthless.

Twelve thousand kilometres away in Australia, the lucky country, a growing population of immigrants from Venezuela, thousands of them, live their lives as most Australians. They go shopping, have picnics, own houses and businesses, have babies, watch the footy in the winter and the cricket in the summer, go skiing in Victoria, NSW or even NZ. They contribute to the economy with their hard work.

Like so many immigrants from other countries, they have come to Australia to develop their careers, to have families in a safe environment, to stop worrying everyday about whether they will make it back home alive after a day’s work.

They just want to be able to work knowing their political affiliations won’t result in them being fired or worse still, blacklisted. Many, like me, were amongst 22 thousand people fired and blacklisted in 2003 from Venezuela’s state owned oil and gas company just for showing dissent against the government. I was 26 years old at the time.

Of course, they hang out together a lot, go to birthday parties, have barbecues and dinners featuring Venezuelan food, tell stories and smile about the “good old days”, mix up stories of home with stories of trips to the wineries in SA, the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, New Year’s in Sydney and that road trip to Uluru.

All too often though the smiles are erased by the news of friends or relatives back home who were mugged, kidnapped, lost their job or even worse, murdered over a pair of shoes. They don’t stop thinking about home for a day; they continue to suffer for friends and family.

The outcome of the coming election probably won’t change the lifestyle of the many Venezuelans living in Australia, but there is one thing they can still do for their birth country and loved ones: VOTE!

Almost 1000 Venezuelans from all over Australia will be lining up at the tiny Venezuelan embassy in Canberra first thing Sunday 7th October.  They may have to wait all day, just like we used to back home (last time I voted I lined up at my old high school for nine hours before I could vote!), to cast their vote and make a difference.

There are about 20 million registered voters in Venezuela, so one thousand might sound like small potatoes, particularly in Australia where, unlike Venezuela, voting is compulsory, but every single vote matters.

They’ll be together, making a difference like so many other Venezuelans all over the planet, contributing from afar to a better place for their loved ones, one they can all be proud of.

The fight for democracy and freedom never stops, and it will always go the distance. One vote at a time they will be there, fighting.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

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41 comments

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    • Paris hotman hutepea says:

      06:07am | 05/10/12

      Ah Venezuela home of Miss World winners. We welcome Venezuelans they must surely increase the average hotness of Australian girls, and that can only be a good thing.

    • Anne71 says:

      12:52pm | 05/10/12

      Oh, Fred. You must be an Alan Jones acolyte, to come up with such a ludicrous bit of hyperbole as that. “Threat to democracy” - seriously? Last time I looked, I still had the right to vote, and so does every other Australian citizen over the age of 18.

      I can only assume that you STILL haven’t gotten over the fact that the Independents decided to form a minority government with Labor, rather than your precious LNP. How you could think it would have been any more “democratic” if they had chosen the LNP, I’ve no idea. But expecting logical thought from the likes of you is akin to expecting a dog to be able to play the piano. It would be a lovely surprise but it just ain’t going to happen.

    • neo says:

      03:35pm | 05/10/12

      Chavez is such a champion. Stick it to the USA, Hugo. His people love him!

    • rita says:

      05:57pm | 07/10/12

      Hey, Venezuelan,
      If you feel Australian, stick to Australia. If you want to fight for a better future of Venezuela- go there and fight over there, as ... Venezuelan

    • acotrel says:

      07:03am | 05/10/12

      It always amazes me when some Australians are indifferent about the importance of democracy.  It is the only thing on this planet worth fighting for. 100,000 Australian soldiers died in two world wars so we could have the right to vote and influence the way we are governed.

    • rat says:

      08:03am | 05/10/12

      Irony from an old man so one eyed and stubborn in his political leanings?

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      08:43am | 05/10/12

      Acotrel. Please stop trying to re-write history early in the morning. Do you think the thousands of Australians who died in Singapore and Malaysia fighting the Japanese was for democracy? If anything they died trying to maintain the British empire which was far from being democratic in those countries at that time.

      But I must add fighting the Japanese then and there was truly the right thing to do.

    • Fred says:

      08:45am | 05/10/12

      Acotroll don’t use our fallen soldiers when trying to back up your argument. Your beloved ALP has done enough to shag democracy and politics in this country. They are a greater threat to our democracy then the japanese or nazi’s ever were.

    • Luke says:

      08:53am | 05/10/12

      A very simple argument acotrel. Australian soldiers did not die in btoh world wars trying to save democracy. Thats a fallacy taken straight out of the Americans version of 20th century history. Every conflict over the last 100 years has always been linked to the global game of chess and dominance over natural resources and access to those resources, mainly oil. Thats why the Japanese headed south in WW2, to get hold the of SE Asian oil fields after the yanks cut off their oil supply. They didnt head south to destroy australia’s democratic institution. But we can let you live in your fairy land of ‘saving democracy’.

    • D'OH says:

      09:18am | 05/10/12

      Let me guess acotrel, do you also believe we are at war with iraq and afghanistan in the name of saving or promoting democracy? What little cred you had left on this blog is gone after this post.

    • TChong says:

      09:23am | 05/10/12

      fred
      The ALP is a bigger threat than Nazism, with its murder of 10million + victims
      Really?
      You must have little regard for their sacifices( australian POWS) , or shame in using the war crimes, torture and death the IJA inflicted on them , as nothing more than an ill founded prop to make such a ridiculous partisan remark.
      In case you werent aware, Aussies didnt fight and die in order to preserve the Liberals.
      Trying to hijack soldiers sacrifice to promote partisan politics is disgraceful.

    • Gox says:

      09:36am | 05/10/12

      @Fred
      Please don’t compare the government with totalitarian leaders who were responsible for the torment, pain and death of millions of people. It makes you appear ignorant and selfish, while taking away from the very real horrors that occurred under these regimes.

    • maria says:

      09:37am | 05/10/12

      the importance of democracy…..what do you mean by that in a mafiacracy in which lies and frauds are the main prerequisites for the mobs or the political parties???????

      How can we influence our government under the absolute power of the political parties?

      “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead “
      What has happened to democracy?

      Today’s Daily Telegraph editorial
      ” Power of Attorney ... and its misuse”

      IT is no secret that politics in this country has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. The language has become more vitriolic, the tactics more grubby, and the partisanship more extreme.

      Is this really democracy or mafiacracy in action?

      It’s ok to criticize and attack other regime but are we a democracy as told by the mob who is behaving the same way as Chavez does.

      I will beleive in democracy the day we will have a direct democracy a la Switzerland in which only the people are sovereign with the same democratic right as the swiss citizen has.

      Switzerland’s direct democracy means that all proposed amendments to the constitution are decided by referendum. Any other federal law can be put to a referendum if 50,000 citizens sign a petition - meaning that Switzerland’s federal system can be changed by its citizens and not just the mog and his cronies.

      Democracy means power to the people and not just the few as it is.

      The political parties no longer represent the interests of the public but serve as vehicles for personal ambitions as Chavez and his mates,a political class who are in essence a dictatorship who are cut off from real world, manipulate the truth, enrich themselves at the tax payers expense.

    • marley says:

      10:58am | 05/10/12

      @Luke - “Thats why the Japanese headed south in WW2, to get hold the of SE Asian oil fields after the yanks cut off their oil supply.”

      Interesting take on history. l believe the Japanese first crossed the border into Indochina in Sept 1940 and occupied the whole of Indochina in June 1941.  The oil embargo was imposed after/after that occupation and as a consequence of it.

    • TChong says:

      07:03am | 05/10/12

      Gabriel,is getting to vote for a candidate who was a mayor, premier etc ,- someone who has used the democratic process , despite being in oppostion, to achieve office, and possibly the top job.
      Doesnt that show that democracy is live and well, despite the fear and loathing ?
      Families - “torn apart” ? so , people disagree everywhere, why is such disagreement elevated to such hyperbole ?
      No mention of US oils sanctions ? Unusual thing to forget, for some one so impassioned about their birth places welfare)
      Chavez won in 1998 “in a landslide” . Thats right , the people voted.
      Maybe the opposition will get in, maybe Chavez stays, thats democracy.
      BTW the AVSN dont seem to share Gabriels concerns.
      ( The AVSN , like the author, is obviosly partisn, and claim to be equally representative of Venezuelan expats)

    • Mik says:

      07:18am | 05/10/12

      On “Australianness” I have heard many immigrant and refugee families proudly state something along these lines “I didn’t realize just how Aussie I had become until I went back to my country of origin. And my children?-Too Aussie to even understand why there were places and memories I might still have a fondness for.”
      There was an interesting article recently in the Weekend Australian by a young
      man who had gotten into trouble for terrorist activities in Australia who went to Syria - he found he was too Aussie to cope with the brutality he witnessed.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      07:33am | 05/10/12

      I find the title of this article difficult to understand, “How Aussies are fighting to topple an el loco despot”.

      Firstly I believe we in Australia must begin to become more inwards looking and focus on our own survival in the looming crisis in Asia which will take place before 2050 and which can destroy Australia completely.

      Secondly I think all migrants should be given a maximum of ten years to take up citizenship of Australia. If not they should then be encouraged to leave Australia.

      Thirdly once people take up Australian citizenship they should stop worrying about the politics in their original countries.

      We need to create a new Australian tribe and nationalism to survive in the looming crisis in Asia due to overpopulation and shortages of food. Food prices in Asia are now back to the levels during the mini food crisis in 2008. This year we had extreme drought in USA and some parts of India.

    • expat says:

      02:11pm | 05/10/12

      I am third generation Australian born, but in due course gained residency and duel citizenship overseas.

      Why? Because I am no longer tied to one individual country, the extra freedom has given me options. Governments do not like this, many will not allow dual citizenship because they lose control over that individual.

    • subotic says:

      08:11am | 05/10/12

      God, when I saw this post I thought he was talking about Campbell Newman for a second.

    • Tropical says:

      08:50am | 05/10/12

      Nope got that wrong. Its about Gillards and Labors McTernan.

    • Fred says:

      09:25am | 05/10/12

      Nice one. The Campbell Newmans (and Tony Abbotts) of aussie politics give you a good indication of how poor the ALP currently is.

      In any other world, if the ALP had half a brain and idea of good governance, the likes of Newman and Abbott would never get near the positions of Premier and PM. A sad state of affairs indeed.

    • John says:

      08:54am | 05/10/12

      Chavez is not a US puppet, I guess we are all mad and insane if we don’t support the US, their wars and their pathetic dollar.

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      08:54am | 05/10/12

      More Venezuelans are welcome, especially females!

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:13am | 05/10/12

      What….non Anti-US rubbish and posts along the lines of ‘its all about the oil’ or cheering on ‘David’ Venezuela agains the Goliath (United States)??

      You lot dissapoint me.

      Or unless 9:15am is too early for them??

    • LL says:

      09:36am | 05/10/12

      Any Venezuelan i’ve come across in Oz is staunchly anti Chavez. Thats one of the reasons they are here. A country with great oil wealth being ruined by a lunatic despot more suited to the jungles of Columbia than leading what should be one of south america’s economic power houses.

    • AdamC says:

      09:53am | 05/10/12

      Venezuela is an excellent example of how you can take a country with fantastic natural resources and completely ruin it with socialist policies and oppression. Then, of course, you have to distract everyone with nationalist nonsense and silly, anti-American posturing. But for the latter, I suspect Wayne Swan likes to model himself on Hugo Chavez, especially with his anti-rich, commy-pinko rants.

      I hope Chavez is booted out by his electors. However, is it not just as likely that he will refuse to accept an election defeat and rule as a military dictator? He practically does that already - why not make it official?

    • tazed citizen says:

      10:07am | 05/10/12

      If we allow Julia and Swannie to continue we will soon find ourselves in similar situation.
      Being Ausses we will rather share a pair of thongs rather than kill for one though..

    • James says:

      10:32am | 05/10/12

      Funny how it’s always the ex-pats who can afford to migrate to Australia want the good old days back. Where the ones born into a good family could abuse the ones on the social rung below them. Chavez was voted in by the people! In an election that even the US said democratic! The people want him. Could that be because the majority of the people DIDN’T have it better before Chavez. I also think it’s ironic that the author mentions the Chavez backed Coup, yet fails to highlight the US backed Coup in the early 2000s which many of the current opposition supported.

      Look, I don’t love Chavez, he’s much too extreme for me (and most western people). And the author would know more than I, who have never had the chance to visit Venezuela, however,  it’s important to remain aware of the good that he has done, the most importantly that he was democratically elected.

    • Hugh Bris says:

      11:33am | 05/10/12

      Well said James;the writer of this article seems to have plenty of loot to splash about on fancy holidays etc. .Maybe he is one of the few with extreme wealth and power that was used to crush the great mass of people into terrible poverty!!  If Venezuela is so bad,how come he can still vote in their elections?  Either become truly Aus.. or go back and help the people you claim are being badly served!  8 yrs. is plenty of time to make up ones mind…

    • marley says:

      11:47am | 05/10/12

      @Hugh Bris - the guy’s a mechanical engineer in the gas pipeline industry.  I’m going to take a wild guess that he makes enough money to be able to afford an overseas trip from time to time.  Hell, I’m retired and I can manage it.  Doesn’t make me an member of the elite grinding the working class beneath my heel. 

      And what does the condition of the current government in Venezuela have to do with its voting laws? Countries either allow non-resident citizens to vote, or they don’t.  Venezuela does.

    • notworldlyelly says:

      10:55am | 05/10/12

      If you’ve lived here for 8 years and are living the Australian dream, how come you get to vote in the Venezuelan elections ? Can you vote in both countries i.e. Australia & Venezuela ?

    • marley says:

      11:13am | 05/10/12

      I don’t know about Venezuela, but I voted in the last Canadian election in 2011 even though I’ve lived in Australia since 2005.  It depends on the rules the other country, not Australia, has about voting.

    • happy expat says:

      02:00pm | 05/10/12

      Why would anyone who migrated to make their lives in another country want to vote for the old home? Unless they do not intend to stay in this new country I cannot see any compelling reason to do so. Some cases such as still having assets or dependent family ties are different so what is the point apart from one wanting to ‘hedge their bets’.
      Does one walk out of a marriage get divorced but stays involved in the others day to day business in the hope that the door will be open if they decide to return?
      I left Australia 25 years ago to live and work in China have never voted in an Australian election since, never saw any reason to do so , China is my home. What right does a person who has severed all ties and emmigrated from their former country, pays no taxes or uses the system of that country the right to vote and influence the political system ?
      And to save responding to the obvious comments as to why then am I reading the Punch, I still have relatives who live in Australia and just like to know what’s happening there just like I do in other parts of the world.

    • marley says:

      02:26pm | 05/10/12

      @happyexpat - well, here’s the deal.  Whether I vote or not, I can still move back to Canada any time I choose to.  And who knows what the future will bring?  I have no blood relatives in this country, but plenty back there.  The time may come when I need their support.

      In the meantime, as a matter of fact I do pay taxes in Canada:  my income comes from a Canadian super fund and the Canadian government gets first cut on the income tax due (the Australian government gets the rest).  I’ve got another super fund there I can’t touch for a few more years.  So I’ve still got a financial interest, and the interest of a taxpayer, in how the country is governed.  So I vote.

      It’s not like divorcing and still hanging around the ex spouse.  It’s more like divorcing, and still worrying about the kids.  I expect that author of this piece feels somewhat the same.

    • rita says:

      06:31pm | 07/10/12

      Well, dual citizenship is dual loyalty. It may happen that two Australian citizens will be shooting each other in foreign wars. Can you imagine Australian citizen fighting another Australian in ... i.e. Afghanistan?
      It already happened in Lebanon.

    • Harry the Bat says:

      12:09pm | 05/10/12

      Sorry Gab I found your writing style contrived and you over-reached on the I’m an aussie and so are all my fellow country folk who reside in Australia. Australians already know we live in the best country in the world. We don’t need that fact forced down our throat. It’s clear you don’t like Chavez but the point is he was elected. I am sorry for the way your country has deteriorated but Chavez wouldn’t be the first politician to make mistakes. I think it all started going bad since the departure of David Penberthy from the South American Continent in the late 80’s… It’s time he went back to start the revolution. Cerveza and Venezuelan ladies…Hail Penbo.

    • paul says:

      01:48pm | 05/10/12

      Yea dude I got an idea why don’t you hand your country back to the americans? Because they have cared for you so much. At least Chavez is trying to do something for the poor people in his country.

    • fedup Labourvoter says:

      02:52pm | 05/10/12

      Gabriel, I hope you get your country back soon, and the removal of this socialist despot Chavez.  Good luck to you and your countrymen.

    • David V. says:

      03:27pm | 05/10/12

      Amazing how the lefties here tout Chavez as a kind of model to follow when it is an obvious failure only covered up by oil. While a country like Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew achieved far more under a “right-wing dictatorship” and is a fantastic place to live. But he must be some kind of “fascist” to the Lefties isn’t he? I’d feel much safer in Singapore than Caracas!

    • paul says:

      04:53pm | 05/10/12

      Dave you say that but nearly every “democratic” country in south america with resources is owned by corporations and america. And guess what the people are no better of, people are still starving to death.
      If an area is corrupt is doesn’t matter at all what form of government you have.

    • David V. says:

      05:30pm | 05/10/12

      Singapore is not in Latin America and it is not corrupt. It is a right-wing authoritarian regime of the kind that the Left hates but has delivered efficient, uncorrupt government, low crime rates, the death penalty and corporal punishment, and Asia’s richest economy.

 

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