Mérida, February 13, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- On Sunday Venezuelans will go to the polls to vote for or against an amendment to the constitution to eliminate the two-term limit on all elected offices. As no campaigning is allowed on Saturday, both sides rallied, marched, attended concerts, and participated in motorcades on Thursday and Friday, to close off their campaigns.
In Caracas yesterday a march of hundreds of thousands of amendment supporters began at 10 in the morning at Petare train station and marched across the city to the famous and giant Bolivar Avenue.
Helicopter footage of the concentration in Bolivar Avenue shows the road and parallel roads filled with red-dressed supporters for about 15-20 blocks.
There were live bands on various stages along the avenue and dancing. President Hugo Chavez arrived at around 5 o’clock, where he joined the entire crowd in singing the national anthem, then gave the keynote speech. The rally finished with fireworks.
In his speech, Chavez said he thought there would be a big victory on Sunday, but called on his followers not to fall for “triumphalism” and to make sure they were well organized to consolidate the triumph.
He also said the victory of the “yes” vote would be a commemoration to 20 years since the Caracazo, “that day of popular rebellion.” On February 27, 1989 between 300 and 3,000 people died at the hands of security forces during protests against a package of “free market” reforms and other measures taken by then president, Carlos Andres Perez.
“On Sunday we’ll know if I’m going or if I’m staying,” Chavez said, adding that if there was a victory on Sunday, preparations for the 2012 presidential elections would then begin.
“Look at everyone in Democratic Action (AD), Copei, all those who want to be president, if God gives me life and health, and with this flame of love that I have, driven by the people… I’ll see them at the knockout in 2012.”
A United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader, Carlos Rondon, said that in the lead-up to the big march and the voting on Sunday, “We’ve handed out propaganda from the red [tents] that are located all over the city, at traffic lights, and we’ve also organized forums in various plazas.” He said they’d visited every single house in the municipality of Sucre to talk face to face with the communities.
Yesterday coincided with the Day of Youth, and commemoration of the Victory battle 194 years ago in which young people played an important role. Various concerts and rallies were held across the city, including one in Merida, where live footage of Chavez’s speech in Caracas was broadcast.
Today there were motorcades and rallies in various states, to close campaigning.
In Merida, children, elderly people, social mission participants, PSUV and other party members joined in a motorcade that took hours to pass the main plaza.
In the state of Vargas tens of thousands attended a march through the city, headed by Chavez.
“The people of Vargas support Chavez because we’ve never had a president like him, who really is concerned about the people, about the most needy,” said Mari Castro to ABN at the march.
Meanwhile, the opposition held a small rally in the Brion plaza, Chacaito, Caracas. Aporrea.org reported that the plaza was not full.
Opposition youth also put red paint in a large fountain the Plaza Altamira, to make it look like it was full of blood, and accompanied with a large banner that said, “10 years of revolution, 10 years of blood, 150,000 deaths,” in a reference to Venezuela’s high murder rate.
Opposition students also announced to the press that they planned to do a “large takeover of Caracas” today, campaigning against the amendment in the main plazas and at key traffic lights. According to La Tribuna, the “takeover” was to substitute an opposition march from the west to the east of Caracas, which the Minister for domestic affairs did not authorize.
“No means no” was the slogan of the protest by the opposition in Carabobo state yesterday. Students gave speeches against “irreversible communism” and a supposed “lack of human rights.”