Thursday, October 28, 2004

Chavez in Yaracuy

And Governor Lapi closes his campaign

Local politics can be quite interesting. Today we got the visit of Chavez trying to improve the sagging chances of his designated governor to Yaracuy. He was supposed to come Tuesday but postponed at the last minute. As a result the scene selected for Photo-Op had to be moved, or so I was told, since Lapi had already scheduled long in advance the Avenida Caracas, the "grandiose" backdrop for all his closing rallies. Avenida Caracas is wide and steep which of course gives great takes for TV cameras…

So Chavez had to settle for Avenida Libertador in La Independencia, which is a decent backdrop too. This blogger who usually gives pics from this type of events must confess that this time, due to work obligations, messed up the different times for the different rallies and missed both of them! Still, he has a tale to tell.

Realizing that I had missed the Lapi meeting at 10 AM (I thought it was at 1 PM) I tried to make it to the Chavez meeting. However I knew that I had missed it when I heard a series of planes and helicopters zooming above my office. Chavez had landed, at tax payer expense.

I waited for a little bit and made it home realizing that I was already too late to get anywhere close of the rally stage. While having a very, very late lunch I watched the state TV which of course gave the whole event live. Well, I have to admit that the turnout was impressive for a 150 000 people town. But before pro Chavez readers cheer and anti Chavez readers weep, let me remind you that this is a provincial capital with only one single movie theater. Thus a visit by Chavez is like a visit by a rock star in Caracas: most go, and if they cannot go, they pay attention anyway. And if you doubt it, keep reading.

On my way home, I checked the radio stations and half of them where broadcasting the speech. That is, even some of the supposedly anti Chavez media were transmitting the speech as they knew all wanted to hear what Chavez had to say on Yaracuy, in Yaracuy. We were in the news and we were not going to miss it!

But not for all. Driving in front of Banco de Venezuela, one of the banks that manage the funds and payments for the misiones, there was a line, I kid you not, of at least 200 people, most wearing some red chavista insignia! Apparently it was more important for them to cash in than to go listen to the beloved leader… And some think that there is a real commitment from the people in populist regimes. Sigh!

After lunch I went to pay my phone bill (1). Chatting with the attendant she told me that this morning there was a stream of people going to the Avenida Caracas, to the Lapi happening. The turnout apparently was very impressive. At noon the tide reversed and the flow went toward the Libertador this time with red shirts. Busses also passed along the narrow street as the main thorough fare was closed by the Chavez stand. She told me that the chavista buses passing were from all around the neighboring states, even one Metro Bus from Caracas that had broken down and was being towed, window graffiti and all!!!! I imagine the Caracas commuters that will find it strange today that there are less metro bus on their line than usual. Some more inquiring with other folks that commute from the neighboring villages revealed that the highway entrances of San Felipe were chockfull of parked buses early this morning. For Lapi and for Chavez, all amiably parked together. The only difference was that the Chavez buses were also from next door states!

In other words, these rallies might bring out a lot of the natives, but when they include Chavez, they also come with groupies.

Eventually I made it home just to see the end of the speech. It was that long. And soon I could hear a lot of honking from buses stuck in what was probably a massive traffic jam… Oh well, I wonder how the Caracas visitors made it back with their bus at the shop.

Ah! I was forgetting! I did not hear the Lapi speech but unfortunately I did hear part of the Chavez speech. Lapi was of course accused of evil incarnate. Chavez listed all the minute successes of the misiones, and even pointed out the Cuban doctors corps that were attending the rally, all dressed up in white coats. Apparently Cuban doctors now are allowed/required to participate in Venezuelan politics. An interesting development. And Chavez promised us that after October 31 victory, the land redistribution will get into high gear. But he would negotiate first with the folks owning 40 000 idle acres to see if they would sell him some for the "poor". If not, he would send the army to "inspect" and find any possible code violations and then fine them to the hilt; and then force them to sell or be dispossessed. And some people wonder why folks are not investing in Venezuela besides the one in the oil industry. Personally I wonder who has 40 000 idle acres in Yaracuy.

To conclude, a little observation. Chavez was accompanied by: the education minister, the environmental minister, the "popular economics" minister, the communications minister, and, I think, one or two more ministers, none of them clergy. This to open a rehabilitated special education center. What the heck were doing all of these guys there? Don't they have work to do? Why must these operetta leaders travel with their permanent court?

But one thing was really good! Two major meetings almost met and as far as I can tell, San Felipe is at peace. And some wonder why I like it here in the provinces....

(1) In Venezuela the mail system does not work so you must pay all your services at the bank or at the utilities offices. OR have a direct withdrawal system. I cannot do it with my phone because I rent.

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