Thursday, August 21, 2003

Caracas is back

Wednesday August 20 2003

Caracas, and Venezuela, lived today another important day. The general objective was to depose the signatures for a recall election on the first legal day for it, and mark the moment by a revival rally. By the looks and often-incoherent speeches from government officials, Chavez’s opposition seems to have scored big today.


The widest avenue in Caracas, Avenida Bolivar has been duly hijacked for the whole week by chavistas celebrating the mid term their own way. Besides trying to create some show of support if anything by offering free goodies, the idea is doubly shady. For one it deprives the opposition from a photo-op rally. And perhaps more importantly it allows them to block the access to the Electoral Council to an eventual march to deposit signatures. At least for this week.

Bringing the signatures this morning at 5:30 AM smartly turned this around. Chavistas vigilantes that probably stayed late on Bolivar Avenue partying were nowhere to be seen. Around 10 AM, a delegation of 20 people arrived discreetly to make official the reception of the signatures that were held in the Electoral Council auditorium.

There was nothing left to utter by Chavez attorney but a lame argument as to the validity of the signatures. Not that they are not unimpeachable, but the heart was not there in the declarations.


In spite of all the veiled threats uttered yesterday, even a bomb threat this morning, the six starting points did begin to see marchers arrive at 8 AM. In the next two hours marches started. No serious incidents have been reported though some intimidation attempts seem to have taken place. But again, the stunning day-break coup seems to have taken the trouble makers will for the day.

The confluence on Libertador Avenue was in the grand tradition of the marches that Caracas has been hosting since early 2002. What was noteworthy was the recovered cheerfulness of the people after the doldrums that followed the failed general strike to oust Chavez. Knowing that suddenly there is a real chance to get rid of Chavez in the reasonable future has revitalized the people in a way that seems to have contributed to stun further the government. A visibly upset Chavez, still in Argentina, gave a press conference that he probably would have liked to skip. Then again his camera avoiding eyes, nervous writing while talking, vindictive comments, cheap shots and obvious lies as to the meaning of the Venezuelan constitution showed that he felt furious enough to risk ridicule.

The rally was a little apotheosis of its own crowning a successful day. A very hard sun, followed by rain did not dampen enthusiasm. Hearing the National anthem, I thought of its ending as quite appropriate for today

y si el despostismo
levanta la voz
seguid el ejemplo
que Caracas dio

and if despotism
raises its voice
follow the example
that Caracas gave


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