Caracas, December 1, 2006 (venezuelanalysis.com)— With only a week to go before the election the grassroots movements in the barrios of Caracas and the town halls are organizing to ensure a large turn out on election day and that it passes without incident.
Richard Madera works in the town hall of the eastern Caracas barrio Petare. It is his task to tour the area to talk with those who will work in the voting centers on December and to stop by at meetings of the local democratic bodies such as the missions or communal councils to make sure everyone understands what the procedures are for the day.
Richard’s first stop was to a school in La Agricultura in Petare. All voting centers will be in schools throughout Venezuela. In a classroom about 20 men and women are waiting for him. As usual in Venezuela half of those present, probably all the women, have their children with them. These people are going to be working in the voting center on Sunday.
He begins by telling them that there will be people responsible for the voting tables, some for security, and others will ensure the lines of voters remain orderly. The voting lines at the recall referendum of 2004 were long. No matter what time Venezuelans arrived at polling stations they could expect a wait of 10-12 hours.
The opposition at the time accused the government of trying to sabotage the elections by making people tire of waiting. The problem was even more serious in Chavista strongholds, though.
“To resolve the problem people will be coming down at fixed times and there can be no justification for not abiding by those times,” said Richard. In the afternoon after 3pm there would be fireworks and music to entertain the people he said.
Next on the agenda was attire. On Election Day it is prohibited to wear any clothing that makes an explicit political statement. Richard impressed on the election center workers that it was obviously even more important for them. As for voters, “the same would be true for both sides and both Chavistas and Rosales supporters must be given equal respect on the day.”
Petare is a Chavista stronghold, but in terms of election propaganda you wouldn’t think it. If Venezuela is so polarized why don’t the Rosales pictures get pulled down? “This is a democracy and everyone is entitled to stand and have their view point respected,” said Richard.
Next, Richard had to attend a committee meeting of Misión Madres del Barrio, the social program that provides wages to housewives. The routine was similar. He asked the chair of the meeting if he could have 20 minutes to speak with those present about the elections. It is highly unlikely that anyone in the room would be voting for Rosales in the elections. Richard too is an uncompromising Chávez supporter.
However, he was constantly underlining the need for a trouble-free December 3rd, where voters from whatever side of the divide would be respected, “There are about 5-10% of those that will vote in Petare who don’t like Chávez and they must feel no fear and they must know that their vote will be counted and respected,” said Richard.