Thursday, July 29, 2004

Campaigning in Venezuela: two street scenes one in Caracas and one in San Felipe

The campaign is going on. All sorts of activities can be found in addition of plastering public buildings. For example, at street corners a few people set up some stand and try to distribute electoral information. Meetings are called. Marches held.

Last Monday running around Caracas I spotted in the heat of the 2 PM sun this stand held by about 6 people, from the opposition and for the SI option. It was in the opposition stronghold of El Cafetal. I took a picture of it because it is actually a small affair, run by the people living in the immediate area. We had a pleasant chat, I inspected the material, ordered a T-shirt with something like 100 forms to say SI around the world (though I could not go back next day to pick it up), and I took a few pictures, though I am posting this later than what I did promise these folks.

Today there was a rally for the NO in San Felipe. This being Yaracuy, a state where the political violence is lower compared to other places of the country, I decided to try my chances and see if I could visit. Not mentioning that the loudspeaker noise was coming so strongly to my place that arriving from work I decided to might as well leave again.

The rally was about 5 blocks from home and by the noise I thought it was the square 2 blocks from home! Nevertheless I made it there and I was able to walk among the sea of red shirts without trouble, though I am tall and pale skinned enough to raise a considerable number of inquiring glances. Feeling that I should not take more chances than needed I stopped by a pharmacy which was a couple of steps above the square, got some supplies to have the excuse of carrying a bag and put my camera in (Brazil style, where my camera was taken out of my care…) From the little porch I was able to take the picture below that shows a reasonably sized rally that the reader can compare with the one held by the opposition in early June. One the right side the podium with the offending loud speakers :-)

It is my opinion that Governor Lapi did have a much, much larger turnout. But let's not focus on size. What is important is that the pro Chavez rally was peaceful if loud and that I was able to circulate through the rally. But similarities to an opposition rally stopped there, at least for me. Through the thick of the rally, I got a few nasty looks, in particular from men 50 year old or more. After a while I saw a group of women sporting a red shirt that said "San Felipe vota NO". I asked them if I could take a picture of them and I was met with a definitive refusal form one of them. The other ones looked at the one that refused and stayed put. I did not insist and walked away, having been refused a picture at a rally for the first time!

Ethnically the rally was not distinguishable from the Lapi rally of June but the social origin seemed to be poorer in general, not surprising of course. Where things got very different was in the words of the speakers and the atmosphere. One of the speakers was a woman and her speech was pretty much all anti US and anti Bush. Nastily on occasion. And with a feel of rehearsed that was unmistakable. But that I can deal with. What did worry me more was that the rally was not a joyful affair at all. These were not people confident of their cause, but determined and grim folks, determined to resist whatever it is that they think they got and might lose on August 15. I am sorry to report that, but the opposition rallies that I have attended had a party like atmosphere not to be found this afternoon.

At any rate, I wish to underline that the rally was peaceful and Yaracuy like. I doubt very much that I would have felt as safe in Caracas in a pro Chavez rally if I were to go there alone. This afternoon I had absolutely no qualms in diving through the crowd even if I got some not very pleasant facial expressions, none of them was nasty enough to make me reconsider my presence. The advantages of living in the province where polarization has not been as damaging as it has been in Caracas.

Only 18 days
until the Recall Election
on Hugo Chavez.

Do I want him out?

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