UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

If I could vote in the election, I would


Being from Venezuela, a place where democracy no longer exists, and where people’s voices are shut down even when they try to speak up, there’s only one thing I can tell you: you still have a choice, so don’t take voting for granted.

I was born in Venezuela, a country with breathtaking landscapes, wonderful people and one of the richest oil reservoirs in the world. But where there is good, there is bad, and in this case, the bad guy wins.

It all changed in 1998 when Hugo Rafael Chavez was elected president. When Chavez took office in early 1999, his approval rating reached 80 percent, and his platform –promising to end corruption, increase spending on social programs and redistributing the country’s oil wealth—was widely supported.

During his first term in office, Chavez drafted a new constitution that pretty much gave him control over the three branches of government. Since then, it all went to hell. Chavez changed the name of the country and took control over the oil industry – leaving millions of citizens unemployed. He also jeopardized international relations and brought the country’s economy to the ground.

When Chavez passed away in 2013, Vice President Nicolas Maduro took his seat, and he’s been the leader since. Maduro has made the situation even worse. There’s an ongoing war between the citizens and the military, major international companies have left the country, local industries have gone bankrupt, there are food shortages all across the country and people are dying because medical facilities don’t have the medications or resources to keep the ill alive.

But that’s not all. The next presidential elections are set to be held in April 2018, and Maduro has banned pretty much every opposition leader from running. In other words, people will be able to vote for Maduro or for Maduro.

International Grad Student holds a sign stating why if she could vote, she would.

But I’m not here to tell you about Venezuela, or about how both Chavez and Maduro divided the population and crushed the economy because of having “too much power.” I am here to share with you why, if I were you, I would vote.

I moved to the United States back in 2012, right when the presidential elections were taking place. At that time, I did not understand the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, and to be honest, I did not understand the electoral system at all. Fast forward five and a half years, and I can tell you I care about the elections just as much as a U.S. citizen would.

The U.S. is one of few countries to select candidates through popular vote in a primary election system. Most countries rely on party leaders to vote for candidates. That means you still have a choice. So don’t complain if you don’t agree with a policy, law or regulation if you choose to stay home. You had a chance to have your say in the voting booth.

I am not saying the U.S. will ever be like Venezuela or any of the dictatorships around the world. All I am saying is, you have a choice many people don’t have.

It’s your future, care.

It’s your right, embrace it.

It’s your civic duty, exercise it.