Venezuelans in Utah vote in international referendum

DRAPER, Utah – Ameritech College in Draper was one of three Utah locations for Venezuelan citizens voting in an international referendum Sunday.

The other two locations were in Provo and Ogden, and in Draper the message was loud and clear: "Viva Venezuela."

The people here say they stand for freedom, and that includes freedom for Utah native Josh Holt and his wife Thamy, who have been trapped in a Venezuelan prison for more than a year. His parents showed up to the vote in Draper Sunday to show their support for the community that's supported them.

“This is the best thing that you can do to change the society: You have to vote,” said Carlos Morelo, who is the coordinator for the Liberator Movement.

Sunday, every Venezuelan citizen in the world had the opportunity to vote on whether they agree or disagree with President Maduro’s government’s request to elect a new National Constituent Assembly to make changes to their country's constitution.

“He’s trying to change the constitution without the voice of the people,” Morelo said.

Maria Lira is among those who voted in Draper Sunday.

“We don’t want Maduro stay there,” Lira said. “We don’t want this communism still happening in Venezuela. We don’t want. We want freedom. We want to be as we used to be: a great country that all around the world can go and visit.”

There are thousands of Venezuelans living in the Beehive State.

“We have a very large population here, even though you wouldn’t think it,” said Thomas Reams, CFO of Ameritech College. “We have about 12,000 Venezuelans that live in the state of Utah.”

Some of those voters in Draper say things need to change.

“All my family is there in Venezuela,” Morelo said. “They are suffering for lack of food, lack of, you know, security or safety. It’s really hard right now in Venezuela.”

Lira said conditions need to improve.

“That’s not right,” Lira said. “That’s not OK for our people to be living that way.”

Venezuelans older than 18 with a passport or national identification card were permitted to vote in the referendum. The three Utah locations were open until 7 p.m. Sunday.