Sunday, December 3, 2006

The 3rd alive! Election Day 2006 Venezuela

Our wake up time of 5am was cut short by the horns and music, which started around 3am, we could here shouts from the streets in this early hour of “Viva Chavez!” these were then followed by another “Viva Chavez!”. Some polling places had lines as early as 2:30 am, and most started to fill by 3-4 am.

We had a TV interview scheduled at Vive TV, which was cut a bit short because of the constant updates about the election that were being run. However the delegates who were interviewed got to speak about the campaign and the situation in Venezuela enough to once again spread the messages of the international Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

We had to quickly rush from the station to the meet up point where the rest of the delegation was waiting for our bus (the driver was busy still in a long voting line). We accidentally found our selves at the site of the 2002 coup’s bloody landmark, Llaguno Bridge. Since this had happened more or less accidentally it took us by surprise. Once we knew where we were it was very apparent how those brave people on the day of the massacre must have felt. The videos available of that tragic event don’t reveal just how venerable those people on the bridge were that day. The bridge is quite small and from a sniper’s bullets there is no cover.
We grouped together with the other delegates and drove to Negro Primero Radio Libre, the community radio station we made plans with to observe and report about the elections. Indymedia Portland was also working from the Negro Primero “command center”.
We arrived at the first polling station to witness the process and to speak with the people there. At the Freddy Bernal Alcade there were hundreds of people waiting to vote, the people who had already voted were celebrating, cheering and singing. People dressed in red, with beanie caps reading “10 million!” in a repeated pattern rallied and filled the street.
When some of the children were asked if they knew who their parents were voting for, they could tell you the reasons, they knew, even as children of ages 8, 9 and 10 years old knew of the concrete improvements in their lives made by the revolution.
As we rode to the next polling place we caught a radio program that was talking about our delegation, we have caused a bit of buzz!

The next polling station, at the College of Consolation, was in polar contrast to the first, as it was in an upper class area. Well dress, or shall I say expensively dressed, people adorned with gold and expensive brand name sun glasses lined the side walk. The mood was quiet dull, no cheering, no singing, no hopefully joy only a desire to return to the past. The street was lined with new cars and SUVs as well under a string of Rosales campaign signs. The people we spoke to seemed to all carry one thought “we think if Chavez loses he will refuse to step down” (as I type this Chavez is leading with 66%). This idea, that Chavez is unwilling to observe democratic methods is the classic line of the opposition media. However from what we observed no repression on part of the Chavez government had taken place.

In the next polling area, “San Jose De Tarbes” , even with mixed socio-economic layers, the situation reveled more support for Chavez. The first people we spoke with, who would have by appearance seemed to be against Chavez, were in overwhelming support of the president. They said “we have a good president here, let people know!” one 60 something Chavez support told us, showing his purple pinky finger, indicating him as having voted. He added “you have to be careful, however those people” referring to the opposition, “want to kill, they are mad” then with a smile to reassure us he said “they are pissed they have to pay for their gas! They aren’t used to having to pay bills!”. As well some of the people here remembered us from the TV interviews we have given.

We ran into an Australian delegation and spoke for a while exchanging tips on places to visit. We suggested to them to visit Sanitarios Maracay, the occupied factory run under workers democratic control. They told us how on their first day they visited a opposition strong hold and were immediately asked “how much is Chavez paying you to be here?”. At this time we were at the Experimental School of Venezuela, this was the only site with short lines, partly we think because of its location being in the center of the business area we few live, and people lining up early to vote.

Our last (for now) polling visit, was the historically important Barrio “San Augustine”, the home of the famous “UH AH CHAVEZ WILL NOT GO!” and the home of the heroic people, some of the first to respond to the attack of the 2002 coup. Immediately, with out a drop of hesitation the people of the barrio met us with the warmest, friendliest greetings, joyous signing and dancing, old and young alike, all the same. A swarming street party at the base of the hillside neighborhood. As one confidant voter told us “we party because we know Chavez has already one!”. one man, a big worker, who spoke good English took some of us as new friends and brought us deeper into the celebration, offering us with honest good nature, beer and soda (we took the soda, being in a important political situation). He was incredibly excited and wanted to translate to us. He asked me “where are you from?” to which I answered “the US” with no pause he let out a proud burst “I love your people!” but he added after a reflection “I love your people, it is true, a good people, like us, but I don’t like your government, I love the people you see, but I don’t like the government, I don’t like Bush”. soon we were surrounded, and shown the warmest reception, perhaps the warmest of our lives. The strong and callused hands and joy full faces of the workers here did not need be jotted down by pen, rather they are the permanent living memories of a revolutionary people, in the flesh in blood of a liberated human spirit! Memories never to be lost!

Everything must be done to defend and advance this revolution!

More to come!

In solidarity
Shane Jones from Caracas December 3rd 2006

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