Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pre-election update 

I have now moved on to Barquisimeto and can give an update on the electoral activities I have seen. But before I do let me get to the big news. Last night in a major concession to opposition concerns the Venezuelan electoral authorities agreed to not use the fingerprint reading machines. This, along with the previous agreement to get rid of the electronic voting lists at the polls should have assuaged the doubs of anyone regarding the voting process indeed being secret.

But today the several opposition parties announced that they were pulling out of the elections, namely A.D., COPEI, and Proyecto Venezuela. The governments response was basically one of good riddance. Not only is the opposition overall discreditted but these three parties in particular do not exactly have a good image here in Venezuela. The first two are part of the corrupt duopoly that ran Venezuela for fourty years and left the country in tatters. They are widely despised. The last one is a small party with a very narrow following amongst the upper classes.

Of course the bigger issue is the opposition can see that they are about to suffer a bad defeat. All the polls clearly point to a large Chavez victor. So it looks like as a face saving move they are picking up their marbles and going home. Even the international media seems to have taken note of that as evidenced by this article.

This all serves to lead into what I have been witnessing. In Caracas the opposition was just no where to be found at all. Even in Altamira I saw no evidence of them at all except a few tiny stickers advocating civil dissobediance and not voting. And 3 blocks down from the famous Plaza Francia there was a large campeign booth - for the MVR!! I was amazed that they were there and stopped to chat. I asked them if it wasn´t dangerous to campeign in what is a opposition stronghold. Their response is that a year ago it was but not now. The opposition is now too demoralized and small to even mess with them in their own turf.

In a four hour ride to Barquisimeto there wasn´t a single opposition poster or piece of graffiti to be seen. Everything was from the MVR, PPT, or Podemos - all pro-Chavez parties. And in Barquisimeto itself there the opposition is nowhere to be found. In fact the closest thing I´ve seen to the opposition here was the Tupamaros! (for those who don´t know they are a more radical faction of those who support Chavez).

So outside of the mass media the opposition seems to have done little if any campiegning. This certainly leads me to wonder if they never really intended to participate in the elections and just enrolled knowing they would later pull out as a stunt to try to embarrass the government. It certainly seems plausible. In any event it certainly doesn´t seem as that is going to get them anywhere, except maybe to a well deserved retirement in Miami.

Here is a poor quality night shot of the Chavista table three blocks from Plaza Francia. Ouch, that has to hurt! And there was no-one around doing anything similar for any opposition party. If there were I would have stopped to talk to them and take pictures but I have yet to see them anywhere. BTW, the women in the picture is a very interesting person. I spent 2 hours speaking to her. She was on was outside Miraflores on April 11 during the coup and she slept in the PDVSA headquarters for weeks during the oil strike to help defend it from sabotage. I think I will be posting about her in the future and doubt I have seen her for the last time.

Here is a leaflet that was being distributed at that table for a pro-Chavez candidate in the eastern section of Caracas. Note how the first thing on each of the three pages shown in ¨la candidata de Chavez¨or ¨the candidate of Chavez¨. This is a clear example of how strong Chavez´s own popularity is and all that can are trying to ride his coattails to victory.

This is pretty much the only type of posters you see around Barquisimeto - ones for the pro-Chavez MVR. I have seen absolutely no political activity by the opposition in Barquisimeto at all:

These are some Tupamaros outside of Barquisimeto. They were the only party that I saw that was at all competing with Chavez´s parties. Of course, they are to the left of Chavez and are critical of the government for not being radical enough.

Here is a leaflet they were giving out asking for a deepening of the revolution and an end to corruption.


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