Disgruntled Venezuelan state workers seek ways to join opposition vote

By Alexandra Ulmer and Mircely Guanipa

CARACAS/PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela (Reuters) – Some are traveling across town to cast their ballot. One has asked a cousin volunteering at a poll station to let him jump the queue. And another plans to dress up as a woman to vote.

Venezuela’s state workers are cooking up creative ways to participate in Sunday’s opposition plebiscite without being spotted by colleagues or Socialist Party members, which could compromise their jobs in Venezuela’s vengeful political climate. (Graphic: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/VENEZUELA-POLITICS/0100415K2H4/index.html)

The opposition is holding an unofficial vote to let Venezuelans have their say about unpopular President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to elect a new legislative body with powers to rewrite the constitution and supersede other institutions.

They say Maduro is seeking to consolidate a dictatorship in the oil-rich nation and must be stopped before critical food and medicine shortages worsen.

Maduro, however, says his July 30 vote for the controversial constituent assembly is the only way to bring peace to Venezuela after three months of violent anti-government protests.

He has ordered that the country’s roughly 2.8 million state employees, a sizeable part of the population of around 30 million, vote for the constituent assembly.

Many state workers remain fierce supporters of his “21st century socialism,” but others have turned on the government due to salaries that have plummeted to a few dozen U.S. dollars a month, corruption scandals and inefficiencies in state-owned companies.

Some workers stay on because of health insurance, subsidized food or lack of other opportunities in a country submerged in a fourth straight year of recession.

But about 20 workers interviewed by Reuters said discontent was growing, and many were planning to vote on Sunday.

“I supported the ‘revolution,’ but it’s over now, and what Maduro’s people are doing doesn’t work at all,” said a worker at state oil company…

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