Yesterday a massive red sea took over the streets of Caracas to kick off the campaign in favour of Chavez's proposed constitutional reform. I haven´t seen any official figures, but the march was clear BIG - it was smaller than some of the others i have been on and was definitely less than a million but clear a few 100,000 participated. Its important to remember that this was to kick off the official campaign, and no doubt the closing march will be much bigger.
During Chavez´s speech besides outlining how the PSUV would be organised at the local level to push forward the YES vote (utilising a structure very similar to that for the recall referendum - the Units for Electoral Battle) he made clear a few points
1) the key enemy is abstention and we have to fight hard to make it as small as possible to make sure we have a massive victory and one which no one can deny
2) this is the most important referendum for the revolution so far - more important that the 1999 referendum to approve the constitution and the 2004 recall referendum
3) The opposition are trying to arm a violent campaign in the face of which the state must act. He heavily attacked several ministers for allowing the fascist student opposition to burn parts of Caracas and attack police, as well as for allowing several TV stations to openly show opposition leaders calling for a coup. He said no more permits should be given to violent and fascist opposition marches and the police must act to stop them.
4) Whilst calling on pro-revolution parties such as PCV and PPT to be part of the structures to vote YES, (without having to dissolve their party structures), he once again made clear PODEMOS was now part of the opposition and said he had a long list of others that would betray the movement
5) He reiterated this is a peaceful revolution, and we will try the best we can to remain peaceful but if we are forced to take up arms and go to the mountains, Chavez will be the first to do so.
He was clearly pissed off. Perhaps he knew what was about to happen next....
Today, ex-minister for defence General (r) Raul Baduel, who played perhaps the central role in mobilising troops from Maracay to Caracas to demand Chavez be reinstated during the April 2002 coup came out to break his months long silence in front of a press conference (where only opposition media outlets were convoked) to declare that he was against the reforms. He said they amounted to a coup, that they would take power away from the people and place it in the hands of one person and that the people and military had to closely study it to realise why they should oppose it, saying "don't let them take power away from you". This will undoubtably have further impacts in a military from which numerous rumours are coming out off that there is some discontent with what is occurring in regards to the reform.
Also today, university students protested across numerous campuses to say they would not be stopped and will continue to protest, with violent scenes in a number of these demonstrations. The universities, which continue to be bastions of the right wing have seen numerous protests and violent scenes including shoot outs in the last week.
The opposition march on Saturday was virulent in its tone. They called for a march "with no return" on Nov 26 as well as for protests across the country this friday. They made clear that anything goes in order to stop this reform.
This means that November will be an intense period, some herr say they feel that the situation is as tense as 2002, and more so than the situation in the recall referendum in 2004. There are rumours that other "chavistas" will come out now after Baduel to oppose the reform. The opposition realise a lot is at stake with this referendum and have made their intentions clear. We would all do well to start now to build solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution as events heat up here in Venezuela.