Massive Rosales Rally Marks the End of Opposition Electoral Campaign

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans hit the streets of Caracas yesterday to show their support for Manuel Rosales, the main opposition candidate for President. The rally marks the end of the Rosales campaign one week before the December 3rd Venezuelan Presidential elections.

Caracas, November 26, 2006 (— Hundreds ofthousands of Venezuelans hit the streets of Caracas yesterday to show their support forManuel Rosales, the main opposition candidate for President. The rally marks the end of the Rosalescampaign one week before the December 3rd Venezuelan Presidentialelections.

Rivers of Rosalessupporters carrying large signs, Venezuelan flags, and wearing the tri-colors-red, yellow and blue –of the Venezuelan flag, poured in from across the city andthe country to the Francisco Fajardo Freeway in eastern Caracas.

Thousands who couldn’tfit into the already packed freeway, overflowed onto nearby streets and dancedto Rosales’ campaign salsa-music that was pumped from countless sets ofspeakers, before the opposition candidate took to the stage and spoke for alittle over an hour.

“You know what all ofthe true polls say today, the scientifically elaborated, not the bought, or themanipulated, the polls say that within a few days, Venezuela will have a newPresident for the new social democracy,” shouted Rosales from the stage justbefore 1pm yesterday afternoon, to roar of applause.

“And if you don’tagree, then take a look at this ace of spades, there’s been another live pollfrom today, at this time, the Caracaspoll,” added Rosales, referring to the sea of red, yellow and blue supporterscheering before him.

Rosales’s speech, whichtouched on various topics, was interrupted by numerous chants from the crowd,and periodic pre-recorded promotional sound bites calling on the those inattendance to “dare to” (Atrevete) supportthe opposition candidate—the official slogan of the Rosales campaign.

Rosales announced thatif elected the first act that his “democratic, Venezuelan arm” will sign is the“decree activating the Mi Negra (MyBlack One) debit card project.”

Although Mi Negra is said to be named after thedark color of the Venezuelan crude that would be bankrolling the project, ithas received criticism for its ambiguous and potentially racistinsinuation. African Venezuelans andVenezuelans with dark skin generally are often referred to as mi negra.

Nevertheless, Mi Negra has been widely promoted byRosales as a key pillar of his domestic policy, should he be elected. According to Rosales propaganda, the Mi Negra debit card will be given out topoor and middle-class families in need, who would receive between $280 and $460a month per family, “according to the price and production of Petroleum.”

During his speech,Rosales criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for giving away Venezuela’sriches to other countries, referring to Chavez’s foreign policy of selling oilabroad at discounted and preferential financing rates.

“Through the Mi Negra card, we are going to fulfillthe first act of social justice in the country,” exclaimed Rosales, “Becausethe riches that today they are giving away to other countries, I’m going togive to the people, to work, to study, to raise themselves from below.”

According to Rosales,over the last eight years, Chavez has given away $36 billion in petroleum toother countries, which he said could finance the Mi Negra card for three years.

Rosales alsocriticized Chavez for dividing the country with lies, for building up theVenezuelan armed forces, for not fulfilling his housing promises, and for thetremendous corruption he declared was rampant throughout the country and theChavez administration.

Rosales stated thatChavez’s call for “Socialism of the 21st Century”, is trying to “put an end toProfessional sports… where there’s no possibility of the true development ofsports talent in Venezuela.”“That is socialism or Castro communism of the 21st Century,” said Rosales.

Rosales also declaredthat Socialism of the 21st Century is “to control the life of the Venezuelans,tell them what to eat, how much to eat, how to study, so that we all depend onthe state… to give our riches to othercountries for political and ideological activities… to brainwash the children in their schools,to speak to them of Castro Communism, of war, of violence and to enroll theyouth in military service to prepare them for a war in other countries, so thatthey spill their blood in foreign lands for wars that we don’t understand oragree with… that [Chavez] will be president for his whole life, until he dieslike Fidel Castro, unlimited reelections… so that no one is owner of anything,because they don’t believe in private property… that those who are poor, it doesn’t matter if they are poor… but the important thing is that they believein Socialism of the 21st Century… Castrocommunism, the Cubanization of Venezuela, and that’s why the people are in thestreets, because the people don’t want this, they want modernity, democracy,new democracy, social justice, and for all of us live in peace.”

“Socialism of the 21stCentury is hunger to the people,” he added.

Rosales declared thatwhen elected he will rescue all of the children from the streets, and alsosupport the homeless and drug addicts in need of help. The opposition candidate, this afternoon,once again challenged Chavez to a debate, “whenever or wherever,” called forunity, and told supporters to get out and vote, for them and for theirchildren. Rosales stated that he standsfor all 26 million, not just 10 million, Venezuelans, referring to the Chavez’slogan in which the current Venezuelan President says he will receive 10million votes in this December’s Presidential elections.

Rosales declared thatthe talk of coup d’etat, and riots are so that the people stay away from thevoting booths.

“But we don’t believein threats,” he said finishing his speech to loud applause. “We don’t believein their manipulations, the people are decided, no one is stopping the people,the people are headed towards December 3rd together… a true democraticexpression and on December 3rd a huge avalanche of votes, so that there’s nodoubt.”

Caryen Alvarez, 18, asecond year college student studying publicity in La Guaira, and an avidRosales supporter, attended the march in Rosales colors and said that hisspeech touched her, especially his comments on “poverty, children in thestreets and the change of all of the politicians.” She was happy with theturnout.

“[The march was]really good,” said Alvarez who believes that December 3rd is going to be tough.“[There were] a lot of people, and we achieved our objectives that all of ushad for the mother of marches.”

The private radiostation and Globovision affiliate, CNB, called the march historic, andreporter Carlos Acosta announced that this was the first time that the Francisco Fajardo Highwayhad been closed for an end-of-campaign rally.

Private mediastations, Rosales, and march participants also denounced what they said was acampaign to keep people from attending the large march, by working on varioushighly-trafficked highways and tunnels, and thereby blocking or slowingpassage.

“Roads that haven’tbeen paved in eight years are being worked on,” said Rosales.

Most of those inattendance agreed with Rosales’ speech. Many actively expressed that their lives have become much worse underPresident Chavez, and that Chavez was “destroying democracy,” “CubanizingVenezuela,” and seeding corruption, violence and division. Others specifically asked for theirphotograph or comments not to be printed in the local press, for fear ofrepercussions.

With the large numbersin the Caracasstreets, most of those interviewed expressed little doubt that Rosales wouldwin on December 3rd, however, the majority was also sure that Chavez would bedeclared victor.

“We think that theyhave the fraud all set up, but we need to get out and defend our vote, becauseif we are a lot, it will be more difficult for them to do it,” said Fatima daSilva, a 47-year-old Caracas mother of three children. Da Silva has no doubt that the governmentalso committed fraud in the 2004 Referendum, but now has high hopes that withtheir numbers and energy they will be able to take the Presidency.

“You can feel it, it’simpressive, and keep in mind all the people that couldn’t come out because theyhad to work,” said Da Silva

Considering that Venezuela isfilled with fears, threats and rumors, other participants where not sooptimistic. One woman, who preferredonly to use her first name, Yolanda, believes that Chavez has won only onelegitimate election (the first in 1998). She called the march “spectacular”, but stated chillingly, “Thiselection is not going to be decided with votes, it is going to be decided withblood.”

“You’llsee,” she added.