Venezuelan state worker becomes voice against voter coercion

Published 8:29 am Tuesday, August 8, 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela — Javier Hernandez knew he was going to be fired.

Everyone who worked with him in a state-run cement factory was told to vote last month in an election to choose delegates for a new constitutional assembly granting nearly unlimited powers to Venezuela’s ruling socialist party. With the opposition boycotting the vote, virtually all the candidates were government supporters. A vote was tantamount to a show of support for President Nicolas Maduro and his allies.

Resentful of what he saw as a rigged process, Hernandez flouted his supervisors’ order and didn’t vote. Last Wednesday, he was taken outside the building and informed that he was fired.

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Now he has become a rare public voice speaking out against a phenomenon that government critics say was widespread in last month’s vote — Venezuelans were threatened with loss of their public benefits or state jobs if they didn’t participate.

“It was not a surprising measure, because we had been warned,” Hernandez said. “The people who did not go to vote were explicitly threatened. … If we didn’t go to vote on 30th of July, we would be fired.”