The other day I received an email from Venezuela from a person I have known for over twenty years, whom I will refer to as “Fran.” While he has worked in the government for the last ten years, he has never been strongly ideological. He has continued to work in the government because he has a strong belief in public service and needs a stable income to support his wife and two sons. The story he tells is consistent with other denunciations and this video circulating on social media.

Dear David,

The story I am going to tell you has to do with my government job. Yesterday, first thing in the morning, the 5 directors of [unnamed government institution] were called in for an emergency meeting to tell us that it was an order that we vote on the 30th of July. To be perfectly sincere, I had already imagined this would happen. Nevertheless, I never thought the order would include my entire work team.

The instructions that came from above were that “employee who does not vote, is out.” The cell phones of each director were taken by our technology directors, to install in our presence an application with which to scan our “Fatherland Cards,” and which can then be used to monitor when we vote, and when people under our charge vote.

Today I was told—I still haven’t confirmed this—that null votes will not be possible in this election. Now I understand why my boss told me: ‘Vote for whoever you want Fran. Who you vote for doesn’t matter.’

Sincerely, Fran.

Human rights group Provea has denounced this situation, and has provided an email address for public employees to denounce threats.

NGOs have also launched a campaign explaining how people can cast a null vote.