Venezuela is defending its right to self-determination as over 20 million voters head to more than 34,000 polling centers to choose their president and members of the legislative councils.
Citizens awoke on May 20 to a celebratory atmosphere complete with fireworks and the ceremonial 'Toque de Diana,' a Venezuelan election day tradition. Sunday represents an important day in the life of Venezuelans and will in many ways decide the future of Latin America.
National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena extended gratitude to the more than 150 international observers who are in the country "to be witnesses of Venezuelan democracy to look closely at a vibrant, authentic and full choice."
On Saturday, Lucena said all measures had been put in place for a smooth voting process. Security personnel had been deployed to maintain peaceful and orderly proceedings while citizens exercised their right to vote.
"This Sunday it is up to the people to express themselves. Tomorrow's election has optimal conditions for voting," Lucena said.
Earlier, Venezuelan nationals around the world visited polling stations to cast their votes in the presidential election. Embassies in countries across Asia, the Middle East and Australia were among the first to install booths and start the voting process, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced late Saturday.
All updates are in Venezuelan local time:
CNE President Tibisay Lucena has announced that the vote count has demonstrated an irreversible trend with 92 percent of the vote counted, and that incumbent candidate Nicolas Maduro has won the vote.
She announced that there was a 46.1 percent participation rate, in spite of the abstention call of the opposition. Over 8 million participated.
Maduro won with over 5.5 million votes.
#VenezuelaDecides | @NicolasMaduro won the Venezuelan presidential elections Sunday, gaining a second presidential term for six years with more than 5.8 million votes, the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced Sunday night.#VenezuelaVota pic.twitter.com/ZHjWdtEl1O— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 21, 2018
Latin American Studies academic and Venezuela analyst says that turnout was higher in working class areas, and lower in upper class regions where opposition calls for abstention held more sway.
Opposition candidate Henri Falcon says that he will not recognize the elections, and claims they are "illegitimate." He says he will demand the convening of new elections.
"There could be elections in October, and we are ready to participate," Falcon said.
Venezuela's Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino Lopez congratulates Venezuela for a "successful" election day.
"I extend my congratulations to all the Venezuelan people, to the best electoral system in the world and to all the officials that made it possible to develop this very successful process," Padrino Lopez said.
"This has been an extraordinary day. Today Peace has won."
Voting closed in the Venezuelan embassy in Chile, now waiting for the results.
The daughter of former president Hugo Chavez, María Gabriela Chávez, exercised her right to vote today.
María Gabriela Chávez, Embajadora Alterna en la ONU e hija del Comandante Eterno Hugo Chávez, ejerció su derecho al voto en la Unidad Educativa Manuel Palacio Fajardo, del 23 de Enero #VotaPorVenezuela pic.twitter.com/2TSqawb7Zh— Cancillería (@CancilleriaVE) May 21, 2018
President of Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez is giving a press conference and announced that some polls are still staying open so that people can finish voting.
"The Venezuelan people have decided to defend peace," she said. "We are obligated to maintain peace in our country."
"Today is the year anniversary of the unfortunate event of a Venezuelan citizen who was burned by Venezuelan opponents for thinking differently, for having a different skin color," she said, referring to the violent opposition protests last year. "Extremism and those who seek violence where defeated today. We have a unique participative democracy in Venezuela."
"We will not stop exhausting all possible channels and instances for dialogue."
Opposition candidate Henri Falcon urged all to head out and vote in the last hours of polls.
You who still haven't exercised your right and commitment to the country, now is the time, go out to VOTE! Together we can save #Venezuela," Falcon Tweeted.
As polls begin to close, the citizen auditing process has begun at four voting centers.
Ecuador's former president Rafael Correa spoke with teleSUR in Caracas, after serving as an election monitor.
Bolivian President Evo Morales congratulates the Venezuelan people on successful elections. The Bolivian leader has been an outspoken regional supporter of Venezuela's sovereignty in the face of attempted interference from regional right-wing governments, known as the "Lima Group," and the United States.
#VenezuelaDecides | Bolivian president @Evoespueblo congratulated the Venezuelan people for their participation in the general elections.— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 20, 2018
The president said that despite the international boycott, the South American nation demonstrates its democratic vocation, pic.twitter.com/8mqHHTSMxS
Thousands continue to vote at polling centers around the country. Polls remain open as long as people are in line.
First Vice President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, called on everyone to participate in the final stages of voting, and praised the electoral process as a victory for the Venezuelan people.
"Today the people of Venezuela win. Who are the losers? Those who have really bet on the disaster of the country that have been overshadowed with the participation of this day," he said.
"The political reality is that the Chavista people have moved during the day today, it is something that occurs in every electoral process like today."
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) first vice-president, Diosdado Cabello, called all Venezuelans to continue participating during the final stage of the Election Day.#VenezuelaDecide— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 20, 2018
Follow live: https://t.co/eHoyvd45Pi pic.twitter.com/9x8nta2B66
According to the CNE, polls are officially due to close at 6:00 PM local time, although they will remain open as long as people are still waiting in line to vote.
Arikana Chihombori-Quao, one of the African Union's Ambassador, speaks with TeleSUR English's Iain Bruce about her experience while over seeking the Venezuelan election.
Venezuelan Vice-president Tareck El Aissami spoke about affirming the country's sovereignty after casting his ballot. El Aissami exercised his right to vote in the early hours of the morning and urged citizens to be protagonists of their own story.
#VenezuelaDecides | Vice-president @TareckPsuv assured that in the elections the sovereignty of the homeland will be defended— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 20, 2018
The official exercised his right to vote in the early hours of the morning and urged citizens to be protagonists of their own story. pic.twitter.com/nzR7ta6khR
Incumbent Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, has called on Venezuelans to vote to consolidate peace and democracy in the South American country.
Speaking to members of the media during the afternoon period of the vote, Maduro: "I call on all our compatriots to go out to vote. We are going to vote in mass. The 14 thousand electoral centers are waiting for our people to go to the polling stations in record numbers to seal this victorious day.”
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza urged citizens to vote after casting his ballot. "Here we have had a quiet campaign with international companions who are getting to know the Venezuelan reality," he said.
Former President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, one of the international monitors for the electoral process, said: The Venezuelan elections are unfolding with absolute normality. I have attended four polling centers. A permanent flow of the citizenship, little time to wait to vote. A very modern system with dual control. From what I have seen, impeccable organization.
Opposition candidate Henri Falcon says he has received complaints about irregularities in the electoral process. Responding to the candidate Tibisay Lucena, the President of the National Electoral Council (CNE), said that any complaints received during the process would be investigated and addressed.
"We are following up closely with all the electoral centers (in Venezuela) to guarantee that all electoral protocols are followed," Lucena said while addressing members of the local press shortly after midday.
Lucena also urged all candidate to report any complaints directly to the CNE, rather than news outlets, since this is the only way the electoral body could react promptly.
"We denounce the violation of the signed agreements, with the establishment of 'Red Points' for blackmailing through the 'carnet de la patria' (the Homeland Card)," Falcon said
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino spoke with members of the media after casting his ballot. He also gave an update on the security arrangements for the election.
Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Wiliam Saab expressed his confidence in the electoral process saying: "I reaffirm my democratic position and my political will to cooperate as General Attorney, so that the great electoral celebration takes place as it began, in peace."
Former Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is accompanying the electoral process: "The national dialogue is not only necessary but essential, I will always be willing to collaborate and help a fellow country."
Justice and Peace Minister Nestor Reverol voted in El Valle, Caracas, and said the electoral process is running normally and in peace.
Head of the Simón Bolívar Campaign Command Jorge Rodríguez said: "The Venezuelan people have sent a strong message by coming to the voting tables by millions."
President of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena gives an update on the voting process in an official press conference.
Presidential Candidate Javier Bertucci issued a call for all Venezuelans to participate in the electoral process after casting his ballot. He said: "The one chosen by the people should win, that's democracy... I ask the Venezuelan people to go out and vote in masses. Abstentionism is not the way," said Bertucci after voting, adding that all the candidates "want a change by votes, in peace and without violence."
A man visits Venezuela's Embassy to cast his vote, during the Venezuelan presidential election in La Paz, Bolivia.
The voting process in foreign poll stations continues normally in consulates and embassies.
"Brasilia: The Venezuelan democracy understands voting as a citizen's political right, practiced and demonstrated in the permanent attendance of Venezuelans to the polls, showing a deep political culture of participation."
Opposition candidate Henri Falcon voted in the polling station at Los Horcones, Barquisimeto, his hometown. He spoke confidently about his chances in the election saying: "The majority of Venezuelans want a change that gives them security, tranquility, in the face of this tragic, desperate situation that has been experienced in the country."
#VenezuelaDecides | Presidential candidate @HenriFalconLara: "The majority of Venezuelans want a change that gives them security, tranquility, in the face of this tragic, desperate situation that is experienced in the country." pic.twitter.com/5TBwgm57Wj— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) May 20, 2018
President of the Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno exercises his right to vote, in the city of Caracas.
Claudio Fermin, Henri Falcon's campaign director, cast his vote. Via Twitter Fermin said: "We value our vote, it not only represents what we feel but is the tool to have a choice against what others do and think, proving that our criterion is above any advantage."
Valoremos nuestro voto, no solo representa lo que sentimos sino que es la herramienta para tener una opción frente a lo que otros hacen y piensan, demostrando que nuestro criterio está por encima de cualquier ventajismo #20May #VOTA pic.twitter.com/wLg1T7oQZx— Claudio Fermín (@claudioefermin) May 20, 2018
Elections in Venezuela are trending topic worldwide on Twitter.
"The world is celebrating elections in Venezuela! Thanks to everyone that has put the #VotaPorVenezuela hashtag as a world trending topic. The peoples of the world want more democracy," tweeted President Maduro.
Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is taking part in the Venezuelan elections as observer.
Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, when asked what he would say to those who state that Venezuela is a dictatorship: "I have never seen a dictatorship with so many elections."
President of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, cast her vote in the Venezuelan general elections.
"We day we have to wait for a long time has come, the day that will change the history of our country. Today we declare freedom for #Venezuela," twitted evangelical candidate Javier Bertucci.
Jorge Rodriguez, communications vice president, says more than 2 million people have already voted.
Presidential candidate Reinaldo Quijada, from the People's Political Unity 89 party (UPP89), cast his vote in the state of Miranda.
The polling station in New Delhi closes at 6 p.m., local time.
"At 6 p.m. Indian time, the polling station in New Delhi closes. #VenezuelaIsDemocracy. With no remarks and with all the logistics and security support by the Indian government to carry on an exemplary electoral process."
By this time, 98.19 percent of the polling stations are now operating.
An identification card is checked at a "Red Point," an area set up by President Nicolas Maduro's party to verify that people cast their votes, during the presidential election in Caracas.
"Venezuelans are going to the streets to vote since early morning. I found a very enthusiast group this morning. Don't be left out on this historical day," tweeted incumbent President Nicolas Maduro.
Delcy Rodriguez, president of the National Constituent Assembly speaking earlier:
Bolivian President Evo Morales greeted the Venezuelan people in this electoral process.
Venezuelan citizens check in at a "Red Point," an area set up by President Nicolas Maduro's party, to verify that they cast their votes during the presidential election in Caracas.
People stand in line at polling stations as they prepare to cast their vote.
President of the National Electoral Council Tibisay Lucena announces more than 80 percent of polling stations are open in Venezuela.
Main Opposition Candidate Henri falcon calls on Venezuelans to go to the polls and participate in Sunday elections.
"Time has come to make history and save #Venezuela. Let's materialize our commitment with the majority, with democracy and the future. Let's go out and vote with consciousness, with the hand on the heart and the mind set on the country we dream about."
Vice President Tareck El Aissami casted his vote.
President Nicolas Maduro promptly casted his vote along with his wife Cilia Flores just as polls all across the Bolivarian Republic were scheduled to open.
The ceremonial “Toque de la Diana” is performed to rouse the citizens of the South American country and instruct voters to make their way to polling stations to exercise their franchise.
10:20 p.m. (May 19)
Polls are open in India.
9:15 p.m. (May 19)
Polls are open in Beijing.
8:01 p.m. (May 19)
Polls in Australia were the first ones to open abroad.
"#PICTURES | The electoral process begins in Australia. Due to time difference, Australia is the first country to begin the electoral process this #20M #ImWithVenezuela #VenezuelaIsDemocracy"