Saturday, November 29, 2003

The second day
Getting nearer from the magical number to revoke Chavez

Saturday 29, 10:30 PM

The road to Caracas was long due to the constant drizzling to pouring rain. It took me sometime to gather info for the day after I came in and this is the update.

Yaracuy

Leaving at 12:30, lunch time and drizzly all over San Felipe I did tour the collection centers anyway. All were open though of course no lines. Still there were people signing up at all tables. Rain and lunch and two more days to sign up and still some brae souls were out.

Carabobo

I stopped to visit a friend that had signed earlier in the morning. She confirmed that Friday the lines were so long that she had opted for Saturday morning after checking out sites with less lines (one has to keep in mind that it takes longer to sign up than to vote). The one she eventually stopped at had an incident while she was there. The soldiers guarding the site decided to remove the stand of SUMATE [1] that was further than the prescribed 25 yards. A commotion took place as the people in line started yelling at the soldiers and confronting them, with even a past middle age women almost hysterically aggressive. This is what happens when clumsy soldiers deal with people frustrated by two years of political fighting.

Caracas

When I arrived at 6 PM I drove in front of one of the Caracas collection site in Chuao. It looked like a big party was going on there.

On the road

With the rain and traffic I did listen to the radio a lot. All sorts of incidents in the country, more or less solved. Two things of note.

The Army has been the main disturbing factor. Even though the Electoral Board repeated and repeated that besides security they had nothing else to do with the signature collection. A curios incident was the closing of the border with Colombia “for security reasons”. This did not happen last week end when chavistas collected their signatures, nor even yesterday. Rumor has that one chavista assemblyman from Tachira whose seat is at stake asked for the border closing in order to block in Colombia about 3 thousand Venezuelans that work there on week days. Of course this means that Assemblyman Tascon suspects that these Venezuelans forced to work in Colombia because of the economic crisis are more than likely going to sign for his recall… Ah! Where is Freud when you need him!?

The other noteworthy event is that many centers have exhausted their supply of signing forms for the 4 days! In particular in many areas of Eastern Caracas. People are asked to go and sign elsewhere!

Overseas

Venezuelan overseas were not allowed to sign, though they can vote in embassies. Regardless spontaneously Venezuelan overseas organized a “parallel” sign up. CNN reported interesting images of crowds that am sure did not please our foreign minister…

Tonight

I realized that of all the people that I know, including myself I knew of only three that did sign up yesterday. Today, in spite of the rain and incidents I have 2 relatives in Caracas signing, 4 in Lara and 1 friend in Carabobo. And I know that tomorrow my parents that came back from Margarita tonight will go to sign up and some more relatives will do so. And I know of some co-workers that will do so on Monday in Lara and Yaracuy! If this pattern repeats in other social groups, lines at signing tables are not over!

This also explain the news I received from somebody with links to the opposition head quarters, a friend that is actually ferrying around international observers. Apparently tonight the magical number of 2.4 million might have been reached! Which would mean that whatever is collected Sunday and Monday is free bonus to cover up any signatures that might be annulled for any reason! From another independent source I learned that last night the tally was around 1.3 million. Considering the generally bad weather in Venezuela today that certainly slowed down lines, this will make believable that today we would have collected 1.1 million signatures, 200 thousand less than yesterday.

I really do not think the pace can be kept at this level, but do not be surprised if tomorrow and extra 500 fall into the opposition bag. Could we reach the 3.5 million by Monday night? That is the magic number to boot Chavez out of office. Indeed, one can assume that several hundred thousand that are opposed to Chavez could not sign: travelling, sick, public employees, blackmailed businesspeople, etc… It is reasonable to think that the 3.5 that are signing will go and vote. Certainly the ones that could not sign up will more than make up for those that for some reason did sign up but could not vote on referendum day. Could this be why chavistas are strangely silent tonight? Even Chavez seems to be missing the opening ceremonies of the National Games tonight… No cadena tonight?

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[1] SUMATE is the very controversial group, for chavistas, that does all the statistical and electoral work for the opposition. The government has been trying everything it can to have SUMATE banned. Probably because themselves with all the might of the state are unable to organize something half as good as SUMATE.

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