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Nine Signatures, which really counted. . . .

By Gustavo Coronel, December 5, 2003

For most Venezuelans the act of signing to request the Presidential referendum was simple. It only entailed walking a couple of blocks or driving a couple of kilometers, get in line and sign. Not much of an effort required. But some others went to almost heroic extremes to do what they felt was the right thing to do as citizens. This was the case of nine Venezuelan petroleum workers, temporarily assigned to a refinery maintenance job in Trinidad.

These men normally work at El Palito refinery in the State of Carabobo but the signature collection event took place while they were abroad. Knowing that their signatures would not be valid if done abroad, they decided to drive for two hours from the refinery to a place where they rented a small boat and took off for the Venezuelan mainland. The trip took five hours in a boat with no canopy, two motors and a Trinidadian friend serving as guide. They were lucky to face rain instead of sun. At about 3 pm they landed in a small village called Cagual and found their way to Santa Cruz, where the Coordinadora Democratica (the opposition to the government) had set up a signature collection point. They signed, not before facing the verbal abuse of a few women dressed in scarlet red garments and went back to the boat.

The trip back was somewhat more eventful, as one motor gave up and they were temporarily confused about their bearings. It took them ten hours to reach the Trinidadian coast and, then, another hour to wait in order to land undetected, since this trip was not authorized by immigration. After landing and driving for two hours back to the site of the refinery, it was already five o’clock in the morning. It was almost time for them to go to work in the refinery, as if they had spent the whole night in their rooms, sleeping peacefully.

This is a story they will be able to tell with humor and nostalgia to their grandchildren. The story about the day (and night) they spent traveling in order to fulfill their civic duty, the risks they took, the inconveniences they faced. Ennio, Elías, Carlos, Antonio, Ramiro, Javier, Wylliams, Tovar and Anzola should be proud of their civic behavior. They went far beyond what could normally be expected from a citizen. Their signatures should count at least twice.


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