Venezuela’s Barrio Voting Centers Overloaded with Voters

Petare, one of the Venezuelan capital's largest poor and mostly pro-Chavez neighborhoods, was overloaded with voters who waited in the hot sun for as much as eight hours to vote.

People waiting in line in a barrio of the Petare district of Caracas.
Credit: Gregory Wilpert,

Caracas, August 15, 2004—While the middle-working-class center of Caracas remains calm, despite long lines at polling stations, many of Caracas’ barrios have been reduced to near chaos. Though teams made up of witnesses from both political sides, technicians, and the National Guard are in place to facilitate the votes, fingerprinting technology has failed to arrive at many locations stopping voters from articulating their constitutional rights.  In the barrio of ‘La Torre’ in the working class Caracas neighborhood of Petare, people are refusing to vote in the absence of the legal identification technology.

“We will not vote until we are positive that our votes will count,” declared Carolina Rodriguez angrily.  “For forty-years we have watched our votes thrown out by the corrupt officials in charge of the vote.  Adecos [members of the traditional social-democratic party Acción Democrática] would count one vote and throw out another,” said Rodriguez. “And Copeyanos [from the Social-Christian party Copei] did the same.”

A Petare voter proudly shows his fingertip marked with indelible ink, which shows that he voted.
Credit: Jonah Gindin,

The result has been a complete overload in the voting centers in question.  While would-be voters have filled the streets outside to capacity, teams of neighbours have travelled down from the hillside barrios of El Torre and Sambla down to Petare to alert authorities of the situation.  Community representatives also went to Channel 8, the state television channel Venezolana de Television, to make their case heard nationally.

“We will keep the voting stations open as long as necessary,” said Maribel Roa among applause from her fellow-community members, “until the last person has voted, to make sure that there is no manipulation, to make sure that Chávez isn’t going anywhere, Chávez is here to stay!”

Voters wait in line two blocks from the Luis Agramonte school at the Altavista neigoborhood in western Caracas
Credit: Martin Sanchez,

During the 2002 coup against Chávez spearheaded by right-wing elements of the military, the chamber of commerce (FEDECAMARS), and the then-largest labour confederation the CTV, community groups from Petare surrounded the state-television channel VTV to demand its signal be restored. The complicity of the private media in the coup meant that the only signals transmitted during the first 36 hours of the coup were pro-coup.  Bolivarian circles and other community groups from Petare eventually succeeded in getting VTV back on the air, at which point Chávez-loyalists in the rest of the country where once again able to receive images of the millions of Chavistas mobilizing all over the country demanding his return.

Now, once again the community of Petare is depending on VTV to transmit their story to the rest of the country to make sure that their votes do not get disqualified.