Venezuelan vote in Launceston on Sunday

FINDING A VOICE: Tio Rico owner Jose Guardia outside the South American cafe which will host the Tasmanian Venezuelen community on Sunday.
FINDING A VOICE: Tio Rico owner Jose Guardia outside the South American cafe which will host the Tasmanian Venezuelen community on Sunday.

Launceston’s Tio Rico restaurant will carry the voice of Tasmania’s Venezuelan community on Sunday as ex pats participate in the Voto del Plebiscito.

Six Venezuelan voters will come from all over the state to have their say on potential changes to the constitution from president Nicolas Maduro.

It follows 100 days of protest within the country, in which more than 90 people have died.

Tio Rico owner Jose Guardia has been in Australia for 22 years and, despite having never returned, is still closely connected to the area through family.

He said the state of his country has gotten to the point where his relatives are now relying on overseas packages for their basic needs.

“They don’t have any food, so members of my family who live in the United States send it over to them,” he said.

“With everyone in the streets protesting, it is total chaos.

“The government is just holding on.”

The unrest stems back to an attempt by the government to render void the opposition-controlled congress, National Assembly. People in the country are now using the protests to vent their fury on other problems including a basic shortage of food and other goods, as well as the level of violence.

The vote on July 16 gives people the option to reject or recognise the constituent assembly, while also allowing them to have their say on the role of the armed forces in restoring constitutional order and what shape the Venezuelan government should take.

The contribution of the six Tasmanian Venezuelans will form part of a national Australian vote, with a host of other countries around the world also allowing people to submit to the poll. Mr Guardia said a positive outcome may not necessarily bring peace.

“People are realising that what initially started off as a socialist party is now becoming a dictatorship,” he said.

“Many socialists who were part of the government are now backing away from having any involvement and some have even left the country.

“I think the protests will continue, no matter what the outcome of the vote is,” he said.

“Everybody knows that if the protests stop, the government will try to grab power.”